Substance abuse is a significant risk factor for suicide. Risk is especially high for people who are suffering from untreated substance abuse disorders, and even higher still for adolescent substance abusers. Medical providers don’t always recognize signs of clinical depression, trauma and other, co-occurring disorders. In addition, stigma surrounding drug and alcohol dependency and treatment often keeps addicts trapped in hopelessness that prevents them from life saving treatment.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), nearly one third of people with depression have also experienced substance abuse at some point. Substance abuse can also occur along with other emotional disorders such as anxiety, bi-polar disorder, ADHD or PTSD. When this happens, it is considered a co-occurring disorder, also known as dual diagnosis.
Thinking about suicide is not a sign of weakness and you aren’t a bad person for having those thoughts.
Often, people don’t truly want to end their lives, but if you have experienced severe depression for a long time, you may feel like there are no solutions and no light at the end of the tunnel.
Practical actions to take if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts
If you can’t see a way out and it seems like the sadness will never go away, or if you think you aren’t worthy of living, it’s important to take action:
- If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone immediately. Seek help from a mental health counseling center, physician, religious leader, or a trusted friend or family member. Most importantly, don’t keep your thoughts to yourself and don’t spend too much time isolated and alone.
- Get rid of tools you may use to commit suicide, including pills, guns or razor blades, or ask somebody to keep them locked up for you. This may prevent you from acting impulsively.
- Seek help from a mental health counselor who can help you understand your feelings and work through them. Ask if an antidepressant medication might help you.
- Enter a drug or alcohol treatment program if your use of drugs or alcohol is contributing to your depression and suicidal feelings. Don’t drink or use drugs when you are alone.
- Do something you enjoy, even if you don’t feel like it. You may find that it gives you a break from your suicidal thoughts, and it may remind you about people and activities that make life worth living.
- If you are still having suicidal thoughts, promise yourself to wait just 48 hours. You may feel better if you let time pass.
- Call for help immediately if you feel out of control. Call a crisis line, an ambulance or emergency services. Ask a trusted friend or family member to come and stay with you, or to drive you to the hospital.
- If you think someone you care about may be suicidal, speak honestly and ask directly if the person is considering suicide. You can also ask if the person feels hopeless or like giving up. Listen patiently and don’t judge or criticize. Don’t be concerned that you may push your loved one “over the edge.” Talking about feelings is often the best way to reduce the chance that the person will act on her feelings.
- Signs that a person may be thinking about suicide include:
- Obsession with death and dying
- Severe mood swings
- Excessive use of drugs and alcohol
- Withdrawal and social isolation
- Self-destructive, risky behavior suck as reckless driving
- Possession of the means to commit suicide, including guns, razors or pills
- Giving away belongings, getting affairs in order or saying goodbye
If you notice any of the signs, call for help immediately and don’t leave the person alone.
When addiction is accompanied by depression or other emotional disorders, treatment might be more complex. However, treatment professionals are skilled at treating co-occurring disorders. Successful treatment involves addressing both problems at the same time, as treating only one issue is rarely effective because many of the symptoms of addiction and depression overlap.
Rehab as an option for suicidal thoughts
Rehab usually involves intensive, one-on-one counseling sessions with an addictions therapist. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly individualized therapeutic technique that helps many people understand and change negative thinking that leads to addiction and depression. Treatment may also involve traditional one-on-one counseling and biochemical restoration, as well as alternative therapies such as lifestyle coaching, acupuncture, biofeedback, fitness training or yoga.
The ultimate message is: There is light at the end of the tunnel and we are here for you to guide you safely through it.