Substance Abuse and Suicide

Substance Abuse and Suicide

Substance abuse is associated with an increased risk for suicide. Research suggests that substance abuse is second only to depression and other mood disorders in terms of suicide risk. While 95% of persons with a mental health or substance use disorder, or both, will not die by suicide, research suggests that up to 90% of persons who do die by suicide experience a mental health and/or substance use disorder. Additionally, SAMHSA reports that alcohol and suicide attempts are often related, with alcohol present in the bloodstream of up to one third of people who attempt suicide

Alcohol can affect a person’s suicide risk in a number of different ways. Alcohol intoxication reduces a person’s level of inhibition and increases the risk of acting impulsively. Increased impulsivity may increase the risk of self-destructive acts in people who are already suicidal. Also, suicide attempts while under the influence of alcohol tend to involve more lethal means, such as firearms.

Alcohol can lead to an increase in feelings of depression and worthlessness, which may contribute to suicide attempts or suicide deaths. Alcohol impairs the decision-making process and, in some people, increases aggressive behavior, both of which can have lethal consequences.

Many of the risk factors for suicide in the general population apply to those with substance use disorders. Older males with substance use disorders are at greater risk for suicide attempts and for death by suicide. Previous suicide attempts are a strong risk factor for subsequent suicidal behaviors in those with substance use disorders, just as they are for those in the general population.