by Steve Johnson
Substance abuse is a problem that impacts millions of Americans. Sadly,
suicide has also widely devastated families across the nation. The effect these
both have on families is not the only thing they have in common. Addiction
actually increases the risk of suicide, and a new study published in the Journal
of Affective Disorders helps to better understand this connection. Researchers
found that, among patients in substance abuse treatment, certain traits were
common amid those who had also attempted suicide. These traits included:
1.Progression of Substance Abuse
Among the patients studied, suicide risk was highest among those who had
first abused either alcohol or Marijuana. Specifically, the risk was the highest
when addicts moved from alcohol to Marijuana or Marijuana to Cocaine. While
those who started with drugs such as Methamphetamines or Cocaine still were
at risk for a suicide attempt, the rate was not as high as with individuals who
had begun with alcohol or Marijuana.
So, what is it about these substances that increase risk of suicide? Researchers found that it may actually be the personal characteristics of the user, rather than the drug itself, that is the driving force behind a suicide attempt. For example, individuals with depression were more likely to use Marijuana and alcohol as a method of self-medication. The depressive state, and not necessarily the drug itself, was likely the major cause of the suicide attempts.
2.Mental Illness Prior to Addiction
Patients who suffered from a mental illness, including depression, before becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol were more likely to attempt suicide. Those who suffer from depression often experience:
Unfortunately, substance abuse is another frequent side effect associated with depression. As such, treatment for substance abuse should also include treatment for mental illnesses, especially for those who have displayed suicidal behaviors.
3.Prior Suicide Attempts
While suicide and substance abuse often go hand in hand, they aren’t always initially associated with one another. Those who have attempted suicide before experiencing addiction are more likely to make another attempt after addiction has set in. Since substance abuse may not have been the sole cause of a suicide attempt, treatment must address underlying cause(s). However, having made one suicide attempt always increases the risk of another, even in individuals without a substance abuse disorder.
Children of addicts who later develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol themselves are at higher risk for suicide. Though the exact reasoning for this is unclear, it could be due to the following:
While substance abuse does change the way the brain functions, characteristics that were present before addiction must also be addressed. What is clear is that suicide attempts must not be taken lightly, especially when it comes to treating patients with substance abuse issues. Whether depression or substance abuse came before or after a suicide attempt, the underlying cause of a patient’s mental state must be taken into account. It is worth noting that when a mental illness, such as depression, is treated, patients may experience an easier transition to a sober lifestyle.
Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.
Risk factors for suicide are characteristics that make it more likely that a person will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Note that these are not warning signs or predictions, but factors that have been shown by research to contribute to suicide attempts. Risk factors for suicide vary by age, gender, and ethnic group.
Other risk factors for suicide include:
* One or more prior suicide attempts
* Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
* Family history of suicide
* Family violence
* Physical or sexual abuse
* Keeping firearms in the home
* Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
* Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, including online and in media
* Lack of social support and a sense of isolation
* A stigma associated with asking for help
* Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change, such as:
* Being fired or being expelled from school
* A recent unwanted move
* Loss of a major relationship
* Death of a spouse, child, or best friend, especially if by suicide
* Diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness
* Sudden unexpected loss of freedom/fear of punishment
* Anticipated loss of financial security
* Loss of a cherished therapist, counselor or teacher
* Fear of becoming a burden to others
It is estimated that up to 75% of suicide victims display some warning signs or symptoms. Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
Learn how to act in a bold, positive manner to prevent suicide. Who needs to know QPR? Everyone!
For a QPR trainer in Columbia County, please contact us. For a QPR trainer in other areas of Wisconsin, contact Prevent Suicide Wisconsin (see "Find a QPR trainer" on menu on right side of home page).
The book Suicide: the Forever Decision: for Those Thinking about Suicide and for those Who Know, Love and Counsel Them by Paul Quinnett, Ph.D. is now available as a free download thanks to the QPR Institute.
Prevent Suicide Columbia County meets the third Thursday of each month from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at the Columbia County Law Enforcement Center in the community room on the first floor at 711 E. Cook Street in Portage, Wisconsin, 53901.
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ASK A QUESTION, SAVE A LIFE.
QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer - three steps anyone can use to prevent a suicide. Local organizations like Columbia County Health and Human Services and CESA 5 offer QPR training by volunteers who have taken the QPR Instructor Certification Program, which was created and developed by Paul Quinnett, Ph.D. In Columbia County, there are eight QPR instructors affiliated with Prevent Suicide Columbia County who have trained over 700 people since December of 2012. Want to teach QPR? Contact us-- scholarships are available!