Drug Abuse and Suicide

Substance abuse statistics and suicide stats among teens within the US continue to rise. Coincidence? This article discusses drug abuse and suicide, as well as suicide prevention, teens, sleep, depression, drug abuse, and suicide. Learn about the connection on drugs and suicide today.

In the United States, ninety people take their own lives every day, and yet as often as suicide happens, it is little understood. One thing that has been growing in people’s understanding recently, however, is interconnections between drug abuse and suicide. That is the topic of this article.

Suicide Prevention

In 2001, the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention came out. Interestingly, out of 11 goals set to help prevent suicide, three focused on the relationship between substance abuse and suicide. Goal Three called for reducing the sense of stigma for those who receive services for mental health issues, substance abuse, and teen suicide prevention. Goal Seven, pointed out the need for health care providers in the area of substance abuse treatment to be trained in effective suicide prevention practices. Goal Eight encourages links between substance abuse services and mental health services.

Where did this focus on the link between substance abuse and suicide in suicide prevention come from? It came from data. The two greatest risk factors for suicide are mental disorders and substance abuse. The data suggests that up to 90 percent of individuals who take their lives by suicide have either a mental health disorder or a history of substance abuse or the combination. Turning back to the three goals, if the stigma were removed from mental health and substance abuse counseling, more people would be treated and fewer would go on to suicide. If health care providers would changed, they might recognize the incipient signs in their mental health and substance abuse clients of those who might be inclined to commit suicide. If there were links between substance abuse and mental health treatment, there might be better tracking of people and signs of escalating issues leading towards a suicide attempt might have a better chance of being recognized.

Teens Drug Abuse

These links may be particularly important when speaking of teens. Although substance abuse in teens has long been associated with defiant behavior and poor choices, there is another is another link that fits squarely with the connections outlined above. Some teens respond to depression - probably especially undiagnosed depression - by seeking release from feelings of hopelessness through substance abuse.

This means that what may manifest as “only” substance abuse in a teen may already be due to an underlying mental health issue, and what this means is that from the very onset, the teen in this situation may be more at risk for suicide than one would “expect” from someone who has tried a drug once or twice. Even when the teen’s substance abuse is identified and treated, concerns have been raised that the underlying depression, which is the foundational issue, will not be looked for or recognized or treated.

Teens, Sleep, Depression, Drug Abuse, and Suicide

Reports from researchers in January 2010 revealed that teens who went to sleep earlier were less likely both to become depressed and to have thoughts of suicide. In addition, those teens who averaged five or less hours of sleep each night identified themselves as depressed 71 percent more often and admitted to suicidal thoughts 48 percent more often than their peers who were getting 8 hours of sleep per night.

Put the information about drugs into the mix, and it can be extrapolated (although this has not been shown by research), that the teen who gets enough sleep not to be depressed also is getting enough sleep not to feel the desire to turn to drugs to cope with his or her teen depression, and in this way is avoiding not just one, but two, risk factors for suicide, in addition to avoiding the thoughts of suicide that often accompany consistently reduced sleep for teens.



Depression in Children and Adolescents: A Fact Sheet for Physicians - Written by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)



Related Article: Substance Abuse and Depression >>