Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlight that in the UK, substance abuse is a significant factor in suicide. In their most recent report, it was revealed that 33% of male suicides and 18% of female suicides were related to drug misuse or alcohol dependence.
This stat alone highlights the link between substance abuse and suicidal behaviour as well as the need for early intervention and treatment for those suffering wither either addiction or mental health. But how deep does the link go, and what can you do if you’re worried about a loved one?
Understanding Substance Abuse and Suicide
Substance abuse describes the act of excessively taking substances like drugs or alcohol, or using these substances in a harmful way – so much so that it leads to an addiction or dependence. Suicide, on the other hand, is when someone intentionally takes their own life and is often a result of complex underlying factors, including mental health conditions.
According to the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCISH), a significant proportion of suicides involve those who have a history of substance abuse and addiction. The 2021 report revealed that approximately 25% of suicides were those individuals with a known history of drug or alcohol misuse.
We know that individuals struggling with addiction may experience worsening mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, even if they have never experienced these before. These feelings can soon spiral and lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviours. This is just one reason why addiction and substance abuse can be a risk factor for suicide. Despite this, it is important to remember that just because someone has an addiction, it doesn’t mean they are definitely at risk of suicide.
The Link Between Substance Abuse and Suicidal Behaviour
As mentioned above, there are lots of studies which show the link between substance abuse and suicide. The main reason for this is that substance use can have a big impact on someone’s mental health and cause conditions such as depression and anxiety, which can all lead to suicidal thoughts if they are not treated.
As well as this, when someone is under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, their judgement can be impaired, and they may experience reduced inhibitions – leading to more risky and harmful behaviours, including alcohol suicidal thoughts. What’s more, substance abuse can also have an impact on finances, career, relationships and friendships which can all add to feelings of hopelessness and despair, when things seemingly are difficult to control, and can again increase the risk of suicide.
Other studies have found that those who use opioids may be at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts, and those who have suffered from these thoughts before are more likely to suffer from addiction. With this in mind, it’s crucial to act fast if you believe anyone is suffering from either a mental health concern or substance use, as addressing both issues quickly and effectively is essential.
Preventing Suicide By Drugs and Alcohol
The best way to prevent suicide is to intervene early. Put simply, if you can show someone that people are there for them and that there is treatment available before things get too serious, they are more likely to be receptive to help. This requires conversations to be started in schools, workplaces and communities in order to remove the stigma associated with mental health effectively.
As well as creating atmospheres that make people comfortable in talking about how they’re feeling, there needs to be greater education about the signs and symptoms of addiction and mental health concerns, the risks of substance abuse and the link to suicide. It’s also important the treatment options are made readily available.
With different forms of treatment available, it means that more people would be able to access advice and support when they need it. While inpatient and outpatient rehab programmes are an option, it’s also important to know that there are 24/7 helplines and counselling services which offer professional help and resources.
Above all, it’s important that we all work together. If you think that someone you care about is struggling with either mental health concerns or substance abuse, then you should consider either speaking to them or speaking to a health professional to see how you can help.
Supporting Individuals at Risk of Suicide or Addiction
As with any recovery journey, support from family, friends and the community is essential. If you are concerned about a loved one, however, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy, understanding, and non-judgmental attitudes. Remember that they might not be willing to chat and may be feeling like no one understands. In this event, reiterate that they have not done anything wrong and that you will be there when they are ready.
When you do speak to the individual, active listening, expressing concern, and offering practical help can make someone feel like they can confide in you and could be the difference between them seeking professional help and not.
As well as communicating with them, you could provide information about the available treatment options and highlight the benefits of attending either inpatient or outpatient rehab. Plus, if the individual does decide to attend a treatment programme in the community, it’s important to show your support with regular visits while reiterating that they are taking steps to improve their future.
Treatment and Recovery for Substance Abuse and Mental Health
One thing to note is that there is a variety of treatments out there for both mental health conditions and substance abuse. This includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), as well as medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and treat underlying mental health conditions.
What’s more, by choosing a rehab programme, which combines individual and group therapy as well as family therapy and life skills training, individuals will have everything they need for long-term recovery. Of course, finding the right treatment isn’t always easy, which is where we come in.
At Action Rehab, we help people from all walks of life to find the right treatment for them. And our helpline is open 24/7, so whether you have a question about the treatment available or perhaps need someone to lend a helping hand when it comes to causes for suicidal behaviour, our friendly and professional team is here. Drug addiction, alcohol addiction and suicide have a devasting effect on individuals, families and communities, but together we can work towards a better life for everyone involved.
Find Help for Drug Addiction Today
If you are living with drug addiction, please know that help is out there and available for you to access. There are also support groups that can help you, such as Narcotics Anonymous. This organisation holds regular meetings for those living with addiction.
We can help you find the help you need. Simply call us on 0151 268 6992 to talk to a friendly member of our team, who will work with you to find the best and most suitable treatment for you.