Dead Inside: The Link Between Addiction and Suicide

Men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol are between five and 13 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population. These numbers are alarming for a number of reasons and clearly show there is a relationship between addiction and self-harm. The American Journal of Psychiatry explains that people with chronic pain conditions are perhaps at the highest risk when placed on a long-term opioid regimen.

Unfortunately, addicts don’t often seek help for either their addiction or its related concerns – suicidal thoughts included.

Reasons Addicts Commit Suicide

For most, there is no single moment that convinces them that life is no longer worth the struggle. Instead, they are forced into a depression by the culmination of circumstances and bad decisions. According to Business Insider, even those raised in a privileged home are not protected from suicidal thoughts and may even be at a higher risk. Events such as going from wealth to poverty or from being married to single can trigger substance use. As the user follows the path toward addiction, they may condemn themselves for failing to meet their own standards and become painfully aware of their flaws. This can trigger a cycle of using and emotional pain. In the midst of addiction, judgment often becomes clouded and suicide seems like the only logical choice to protect friends and family from the negative effects of addiction.

Help Is Available But Often Ignored

Of the nearly 23 million Americans with a substance use disorder, barely 10 percent – 2.5 million -- sought comprehensive inpatient treatment. Addicts often neglect to ask for assistance for fear of not being able to afford the cost, lack of access to transportation, or because they are simply not ready to stop using.

How to Help a Loved One Who Won’t Help Themselves

If you have a friend or family member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol and exhibiting signs of depression, they may be reluctant to get help. While you cannot force them into rehab, there are things you can do to encourage recovery from both issues. Start by opening up a conversation when you are certain they have not been drinking or using. Offer loving support, but don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Perhaps most importantly, stop enabling the addict’s behaviors by paying their bills or attempting to make amends to people they hurt. You must learn to recognize whether your own behaviors enable the addict or empower them – the primary difference is that enabling forces you to take responsibility for their actions, whereas empowering offers encouragement and support. Enabling actions only offer temporary assistance. advises against planning a confrontational intervention and instead suggests encouraging your loved one to seek the advice of a professional. Consider exploring treatment centers that may appeal to your loved one. For example, a wilderness-based treatment program may pique the interest of someone who enjoys the outdoors. Likewise, a luxury rehabilitation facility may offer the privacy and amenities expected by executives or people of wealth.

If your friend is in imminent danger of committing suicide, it may be necessary to seek immediate emergency medical treatment. If he or she is actively trying to harm themselves, call 911. Officers and medical personnel will arrive to stabilize the situation. When he or she has simply expressed a desire to die, one of the most important things you can do is listen. Avoid responses that assert suicide is selfish or cowardly or using the threat of eternal damnation to convince them to carry on. Depression and suicidal tendencies are mental health conditions that cannot be treated by making the sufferer feel guilty for having negative feelings.

Remember, you cannot make decisions for your loved one. The choice to seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is their own. However, when their life is in immediate danger, you can help by listening and helping them find options to kickstart their recovery.

The above article was submitted by Melissa Howard.

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