Suicide and Substance Abuse: A Deadly Marriage
Public awareness of the deadly effects of substance abuse and addiction has helped millions of addicts seek treatment. A popular misconception, however, is that overdose poses the greatest risk for death. New research, however, suggests suicide just as great a risk.
Depression goes hand in hand with addictive behavior and substance abuse, according to recent research. Abusers of drugs and alcohol are six times more likely to commit suicide, second only to depression as a contributing factor. Moreover, depression itself can affect addicts, both during phases of abuse and during the recovery period. Of all addictions, alcoholism poses the greatest risk for later suicide. Heroin use also poses a high risk for self inflicted death.
Treating depression, therefore, is just as important as treatment for substance withdrawal in recovering addicts. The factors which contribute to depression often also contribute to addictive behavior. Childhood trauma, variations in brain chemistry, genetics, and life circumstances have all been linked to both depression and addiction. For patients already suffering from moderate to severe depressive mood, substance abuse offers a method of self medication to block out painful thoughts. Roughly half of all people suffering from depression also abuse drugs and alcohol as a means of coping. Depression therefore poses an even greater risk for those already suffering from addictive disorders, and can have even greater consequences.
For that reason, treating depression alongside treatment for drug or alcohol use is key to healthy recovery, and to avoiding suicidal tendencies. Simple lifestyle management can offer a good beginning. Patients should look for ways to cut back on stress, engage in regular exercise and develop a good support system to help cope with life. Roughly a third of all people who do succumb to self-inflicted death fall under the diagnoses of both clinical depression and addiction. Obtaining proper treatment for both depressive mood and substance abuse, therefore, is paramount to recovery, and achieving proper health.