Suicide and drugs

LAUREL BERTRAM, LCSW, CASAC
Posted 9/19/18

Every case of suicide is dramatically different, as are the causes surrounding it. In most cases there is not one specific cause, but rather a significant number of contributing factors. Some of the …

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Suicide and drugs

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Every case of suicide is dramatically different, as are the causes surrounding it. In most cases there is not one specific cause, but rather a significant number of contributing factors. Some of the common risk factors include depression, drug and alcohol abuse, family history of suicide, suicidal thoughts, reckless behavior, isolation, hopelessness, and previous suicide attempts. However, of all the risk factors associated with suicide, only depression is more closely correlated than substance abuse.

Approximately 90% of individuals that commit suicide suffer from a mental -health disorder, substance-use disorder, or both. Substance abuse is often used as a coping mechanism to help reduce the symptoms of depression by numbing the pain and taking the individual out of the situation. Combining the two can lead to a vicious cycle that includes suicide.

Opioid-related deaths have reached staggering numbers over the last five years. Among all substance-use disorders, opioid-use disorder is the leader associated with suicide, though of course, given the nature of suicide, it is difficult to determine in many cases whether the death was intentional or unintentional.

Prevention programs should be based on determining the risk factors with both suicide and substance-use disorders. In response, the federal government has made the opioid epidemic a top priority. The focus is to provide access to prevention, treatment and recovery supportive services.

Every individual contemplating suicide has a unique set of circumstances. Therefore, the warning signals they are sending may be different than the norm. It is imperative that anyone feeling concern for an individual exhibiting abnormal signs of behavior seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider or community resource to help promote safety.

[Laurel Bertram is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor (CASAC) with a practice in Monticello, NY.]

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