Addiction Treatment

Addiction and Suicide: How Do I Get Help for Myself or My Loved One?

Addiction and suicide are closely linked. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that over 20 percent of suicide deaths each year are connected to opiates, and 22 percent involve alcohol misuse. Meth, cocaine, and even marijuana use are also closely connected to self-harm and suicide deaths.

If you or your loved one are battling addiction and/or suicidal thoughts, you already know how they can affect each other; but you may not know that help is out there and that you’re not alone. Learn how to help yourself or a person you care about overcome suicidal thoughts and reach out for the help they need.

How and Why Are Addiction and Suicide Connected?

There are many reasons why someone who is struggling with addiction may contemplate suicide, including but not limited to:

Impaired Judgment in the Moment

Even someone who may not think about suicide when they’re sober can very easily fall victim to suicidal thoughts and actions when they’re intoxicated. A study from the University of Michigan, among many others, indicated acute alcohol intoxication itself may act as a trigger for suicidal thoughts and attempts among individuals at risk and may influence the potential lethality of the suicide attempt.

This study specifically found that over two-thirds of the respondents reported that their most serious suicide attempt occurred during a period of heavy drinking.

Impaired judgment caused by drinking and drug use can make hopeless thoughts even worse and cause people to do something they can’t take back or may not even think about when they’re sober.

They’re Too Tired to Keep Fighting

Alcohol and drug addiction take an increasingly large physical and emotional toll. People can struggle with addiction for years without ever getting the help they need and wind up losing everything in the process. They may experience:

  • Worsening Physical and Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Family Estrangement and/or Abandonment
  • Job Loss and Economic Hardship, Including Homelessness
  • Serious Chronic Disease
  • Legal Issues and Incarceration

Simply put, addiction can slowly rob people of the will to live, and, without proper help and intervention, they sometimes convince themselves that life isn’t worth it—they’re wrong.

Worsening Mental Illness

Addiction and mental illness often co-occur and can influence each other in complex ways. On the one hand, mental health issues can lead to self-medication; on the other, the changes in brain chemistry brought on by persistent substance use can make mental health issues like depression and anxiety worse and even cause new conditions. These changes can include anything from worsening depression or anxiety to acute stages of hallucination and psychosis for which they may need hospitalization.

Recognizing the Signs of Suicide in Yourself or Your Loved One

Usually, a lot has to happen, both in a person’s mind and in their life, before desperation rises to the level of suicide. Along the way, they exhibit warning signs that they’re contemplating taking their own lives. These signs and behaviors  gradually escalate and often include:

Verbal Signs

  • Talking about Suicide (This can mean anything from veiled references to more detailed descriptions, including how they would do it, what their funeral would be like, and to whom they would leave their belongings).
  • Talking about Feeling Hopeless and Having No Reason to Live
  • Feeling Like a Burden to Others
  • Feeling Trapped or Feeling Like They’re in Unbearable Pain

Behavioral Signs

  • Increased Substance Use
  • Searching for and Obtaining Means of Committing Suicide
  • Suicide-Related Online Searches
  • Isolation from Friends and Loved Ones
  • Abandonment of Obligations and Social Activities
  • Not Enough or Too Much Sleep
  • Giving Away Belongings and Saying Goodbye

There are different layers to suicidal behavior, which can escalate very quickly. It’s never worth the gamble to think someone is “just bluffing” or “crying out for help”. Once you feel yourself slipping into suicidal thinking or suspect that others are doing the same, it’s imperative that you act immediately. The process and mindset of helping yourself, however, can be quite different from helping someone else.

Helping Yourself Overcome Suicidal Thoughts

If you’re having thoughts of suicide, it’s critically important that you reach out to someone else and tell them what you’re feeling. This not only helps you access lifesaving resources, but it can also “take you out of your head” and give voice to the urgency of your situation. If you’re uncomfortable reaching out to a friend or loved one, there are many resources available:

Many states offer counseling and resources for individuals feeling vulnerable, including specialized support for various populations such as parents, teens, and the elderly, but availability and types of services vary by state.

Helping Someone Else Overcome Suicidal Impulses

If you think your loved one is contemplating suicide, take the following steps:

  • Talk to them in private.
  • Assess their risk level and let them know you’re concerned.
  • Tell them you care about them.
  • Remind them they are loved and valued.
  • Reinforce the good things in their life.
  • Validate their struggles and let them know you want to help them.
  • Encourage them to seek treatment or contact their doctor or therapist.

It’s important to take any signs of suicidal ideation seriously and act with urgency, considering that you might be the primary or sole support they are reaching out to at that moment. Stay with them and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 until the situation de-escalates. If the situation is urgent, encourage them to visit an ER or see a mental health services provider. If they are resistant, continue to support them and explore other avenues of help.

Long-term planning should include helping them find an experienced and qualified mental health professional if they don’t already have one and checking in with them often to assess their mental health. This is especially important in cases of addiction and suicide attempts.

Recovery Unplugged Is Ready to Help You or Your Loved One

For someone going through addiction and suicidal thoughts, it’s imperative that they get help for both their substance use and the mental health issues that are triggering the urges to take their own life. Recovery Unplugged offers dual-diagnosis treatment programs to help you or your loved one get help for co-occurring substance use and mental illness. We offer inpatient, outpatient, and virtual programs and are in-network with most major insurances. Contacting a dedicated treatment facility can be a valuable step in seeking help. It’s important to research and reach out to trusted and accredited facilities for assistance. You don’t have to face this alone.

Take the first step
towards recovery

Call Us 1-855-534-4289 Contact

Recovery Unplugged Editorial Guidelines

There are a million different opinions online, but when it comes to your life, health and wellness only peer reviewed reputable data matters. At Recovery Unplugged, all information published on our website has been rigorously medically reviewed by a doctorate level medical professional, and cross checked to ensure medical accuracy. Your health is our number one priority, which is why the editorial and medical review process we have established at Epiphany Wellness helps our end users trust that the information they read on our site is backed up my peer reviewed science.

Read Our Editorial Policy