Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among all Americans, and the number and percent of deaths by suicide in our country is increasing at an alarming rate. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race, and ethnicity. There were nearly 45,000 suicides in the United States in 2016 – more than twice the number of homicides, and for people ages 15-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death.
Further, this has been reflected worldwide, as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly a million people each year die from suicide. Their report also states that over the past forty-five years, suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. This problem has obviously been growing for quite some time, and scientists, researchers, doctors, leaders, and organizations, are looking for answers to find out why this is happening and how to stop it.
Recent celebrity suicides of Swedish DJ Avicii, handbag designer Kate Spade, and foodie and travel journalist Anthony Bourdain, plus the death of comedian Robin Williams in 2014, have brought suicide into the forefront newscasts and have left the public asking why as well. Although the four aforementioned people appear to have little in common other than their untimely deaths by their own hands, they all share something else, too: all four battled with a devastating combination of depression and a history of substance abuse problems. Although Avicii, Spade, Bourdain, and Williams were all firmly in recovery from their substance abuse issues, according to sources around them, depression and substance abuse are the two biggest contributors to suicidal ideation, and left unchecked, they can lead to tragedy. It seems these celebrities managed to get a handle on their addictions, thankfully, but they unfortunately could not escape their depression.
The Relationship Between Depression, Addiction, and Suicide
Depression, addiction, and suicide are all very closely related. 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from depression, have a substance abuse disorder, or both. Depression and substance abuse often work together to form a vicious cycle in an individual that can lead to suicide. Some people begin abusing drugs or alcohol to escape from their depression, but their substance abuse leads to things like damaged relationships, loss of financial stability, job loss, and other problems. As a result, the user becomes even more emotionally unstable and depressed, and in turn, uses drugs or alcohol more. This greatly increases suicide risk, and in many cases leads to suicide attempts or actual suicide itself. According to an article in Psychology Today, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that roughly one in three people who die from suicide are under the influence of drugs – typically opiates or alcohol.
As the opioid epidemic grows, opioid use in particular is associated with suicide. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2017, prescription opioid misuse increased the likelihood of suicidal thought by 40-60% and increased the probability of a suicide attempt by 75%. A study in Addiction of nearly five million veterans reported that the presence of a diagnosis of a substance abuse disorder, specifically opioid use disorders led to increased risk of suicide in both males and females; in males, it doubled the risk, and in females, it increased it by an incredible, surprising, and tragic eight times.
So, if someone has a substance abuse disorder, he or she is much more likely to commit suicide than someone who does not, and if that substance abuse disorder is combined with depression, their risk is increased even more. Drugs and alcohol lower inhibitions and may inspire people to take life-ending steps regarding their depression that they may not have otherwise. As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, the suicide rate will likely continue to grow as well. The only way this deadly combination can be stopped is through recognition of the signs of suicide and addition, and through offering mental health treatment and addiction treatment side by side. Dual diagnoses, and treatment, of these two silent killers is the only way to ensure that more tragedy is avoided. According to the Washington Post article cited above, in more than half of the United States’ 45,000 deaths by suicide in 2016 in twenty-seven states, the victims had no known mental condition when they ended their lives. Unfortunately, that statistic is likely true only because so few got the evaluations and care that they needed.
Suicide Signs & Risk Factors
There are many suicide warnings to look for, but every individual is different. Many people who exhibit many of these signs never become suicidal, and many people who commit suicide do not demonstrate any of these signs. Clearly, some of the signs listed below go hand in hand with substance abuse, and that is why it is so important to be vigilant and to act fast when seeing these signs in a loved one, or in even in yourself. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), everyone should be aware of both suicide risk factors and suicide warning signs; together, they can help you to be aware when a loved one is at risk.
Suicide risk factors include:
- Mental health conditions such as depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, aggression, mood changes, anxiety
- Serious physical health conditions including pain
- Traumatic brain injury
- Access to means (firearms, drugs)
- Prolonged stress such as harassment or bullying
- Stressful life events including rejection, divorce, financial crisis
- Exposure to another person’s suicide, or graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
- Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
Suicide warning signs include:
- Talk of suicide, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, or unbearable pain
- Increased use of drugs and alcohol
- Looking for ways to end their lives such as searching online for methods
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family or friends
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away possessions
- Demonstration of depression, anxiety, irritability, or anger
All of these risk factors may be present in people who have no intention of self-harm. However, certain unknown combinations of several of these things, left unchecked, can lead to tragedy. If you or a loved one is exhibiting one or more of these risk factors, and is contemplating suicide, please seek help right away. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. For people who would rather text, the can anonymously text CONNECT to 741741 and a counselor will respond immediately.
Keep in mind, though, that removing one of the above factors from someone’s life can be a big enough change that their life is changed forever moving forward. Getting treatment for addiction can be the thing that begins to turn everything around. At Clear Sky Recovery, we want to help. Our ibogaine detox treatment can help you to get to the foundations of your addiction and can help you to take the first important steps towards a clean and sober lifestyle. Our staff is experienced with people from all backgrounds and walks of life and our counselors are here to listen and to assist. Please call us today to find out more about our methods and the ways we can help you to start a new life. Suicide is never the answer; there is always a chance for a better life if you are alive to see another day. Let us help you. Reach out to us today.
Dr. Sola is one of the world’s leading experts in medically-based ibogaine treatment; he has more clinical experience with safe and effective ibogaine administration than any other M.D. in the world today.