Addiction to any substance always comes with serious repercussions that may be exacerbated by the presence of certain mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. In the past, experts had frequently linked substance abuse with the likelihood of a person to commit suicide. Now, a recent study sheds some more light on the association and reveals that the link between the two seems to vary with age, gender and race.
The study, published in the journal Crisis, examined numerous patients from suicidal emergency department of American hospitals to find that an addiction to both alcohol and cocaine is largely associated with a future suicide attempt. As part of the study, Sarah Arias, assistant professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, United States, and her team, analyzed the data of 874 men and women who were found to approach the emergency departments on account of recent suicidal attempts or preoccupations with thoughts of ending their life.
On following up with them, the researchers observed that although most participants were hooked on a variety of abusive substances, such as marijuana, prescription painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants, only those who simultaneously abused cocaine and alcohol were vulnerable to suicidal tendencies. Of the total enrollments, 298 were addicted to alcohol and 72 abused cocaine, while 41 abused both cocaine and alcohol.
The study pointed out that those who abused both were at a 2.4 times greater risk of attempting suicide than those who showed no inclination toward them. On further analysis, the researchers found that substance abuse does not adequately indicate the likelihood of suicidal tendencies in women and whites. Surprisingly, older people with any kind of addiction presented a higher risk for attempting or contemplating a suicide.
“We’re on our way to trying to identify factors that can be used to better assess and identify people who are at risk for suicide, and ultimately I think this is a step in the right direction to get a better picture. Patients who have potentially comorbid alcohol and cocaine use may be at a higher risk. Findings like these can be useful for informing suicide risk assessment,” said Arias.
The researchers said that this association, if predicted early, can play an important role in saving millions of lives.
Who is at risk?
People struggling with addiction are often found to take risks on account of depression and other psychiatric symptoms. With a significant rise in alcohol abuse and cocaine misuse, there is increasing evidence of the corresponding rise in the rate of suicides.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), nearly 42,773 deaths in 2014 were reported to be suicide. The CDC also claimed that suicide is the 10th largest contributor to death for all ages in the U.S. Apart from mental illnesses, some other factors that may significantly contribute to the thoughts of taking one’s life are:
- Feeling of hopelessness and despair on account of a stressful life event
- Past suicide attempts as a result of a family history or a chronic disease
- Substance abuse alcohol misuse
- Underlying psychiatric disorder, including depression or anxiety
- Current medical condition, including cancer or HIV
- Social isolation or immense exposure to suicidal behavior
Path to recovery
Addiction is a fundamental neurological disorder that needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. A report released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2015 said that illicit drug use in the U.S. is consistently on the rise. Another report by the World Health Organization (WHO), released in 2015, stated that every year 3.3 million deaths result from harmful use of alcohol, which represents 5.9 percent of all deaths.
If you or your loved one has been living under the shadow of drug abuse and is looking for access to treatment, please visit Texas Substance Abuse Helpline for the best healing modalities. The first step to a drug treatment program starts with a call or online chat. Call our 24/7 helpline at 866-971-2658 or chat online for further information.