One of the most unnatural and equally peculiar aspects of human life is the morbid subject of suicide. Suicide is a very human problem that has been increasing in the U.S. in the last ten years, according to both the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust. According to these same organizations, it is estimated that 1.6 million Americans will likely die from drugs, alcohol, and suicide in the next decade.
According to these same above organizations, there is also a symbiotic connection that has developed between addiction and suicide that was not previously looked at. Because addiction and suicide now interlope and have been doing so for some time, we have seen a sixty percent increase in deaths from suicide and addiction in the last decade. To decrease suicide (as is the case with so many other non-optimum socio-humanitarian conditions like crime) we must first address addiction.
John Auerbach, president of the Trust for America’s Health, spoke at great length on the subject of suicide, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse in a meeting on the subject in 2016. He spoke about these issues being a crisis in this country. Solutions must go far beyond simply reducing the supply of drugs and alcohol, according to Auerbach. Rather, Auerbach insists on creating a “National Resilience Strategy” to reduce suicide, reduce drug use, limit alcohol use, and utilize prevention and treatment expansion to help struggling Americans.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Depression and “mood problems” are the leading, contributing factors to suicide, but drug and alcohol abuse are a close second. In fact, research developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and published in “Psychology Today” indicates that the strongest predictor of suicide is alcoholism, not a psychiatric disorder. In fact, people with substance abuse disorders are no less than six times more likely to commit suicide than the general population is.
It is a bitter struggle when someone is trapped by substance abuse. This is a two-fold problem because, not only is substance abuse a predictor for suicide, but substance abuse is often used as the cause of suicide as well. The rates of depression and anxiety are two to four times higher amongst addicts than the general population, and addicts who also suffer from mental struggles are more likely to take risks and potentially take their own lives too.
According to “Psychology Today” the suicide rate amongst people with untreated substance abuse disorders is as high as forty-five percent. This is to say that almost half of the people who take their own lives had some form of substance abuse disorder at the time. Unfortunately, only eleven percent of addicts ever get help for their addictions, making the runway to a dismal end a pretty clear one for addicts who don’t get the help they need. This is a compounded problem with multiple factors that will all need to be addressed if any positive change is going to occur.
There is no mystery that suicide and addiction is an uncomfortable and unpleasant problem to have to confront. Someone has to ask those questions, and someone has to stand up to the person and really find out if they have any intentions or interest in taking their own lives. The first step in suicide prevention is to find out if the person is even considering suicide or not, and to go from there.
Studies show that most suicides come as a surprise to that person’s family members, loved ones, and healthcare providers. This is because people do not usually talk about suicide ideation. They are in fact more likely to call a suicide prevention hotline than speak with a family member about it. We have to be willing to talk to those who we witness non-optimum behavior in, and we have to be willing to get out in the open with them about their issues.
We know that there are very, very serious threats that people with addictions and mental struggles are chronically faced with. Conversely, we also know that there are integrated treatment solutions for these individuals that can address both the substance abuse and the behavioral, mental crisis. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy can reduce suicide attempts by fifty percent, and those are only two of many therapies that can be applied to suicide-risk patients. There are solutions out there to prevent the dire predictions of the Trust for America’s Health as mentioned earlier, but we are all going to have to do our part to enact those solutions and see them through.