Suicide And Alcohol Abuse
Author: Krystina Murray
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Suicide And Alcohol Abuse Facts
Each day, on average, 130 people lose their lives to suicide. In 2019, (the most recent year for which data was collected) 1.63 million attempted suicide and 47,511 American’s suicide attempts were fatal.
If you are contemplating suicide, please stop reading and call 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is open 24/7 and allows anyone to speak openly and anonymously.
The impact of suicide is painful and often leaves families and friends grappling with the immense grief and emptiness that comes from losing a loved one. Firearms were the cause of 50.39% of deaths by suicide in 2019, with roughly 50% of suicides involving mental health challenges such as depression; 31% overwhelmed by an upcoming crisis; 27% of suicides were in relation to intimate partner violence (domestic abuse); 18% involved alcohol abuse, and 17% involved another substance abuse problem.
Suicide And Depression
Suicide and suicide attempts may have several complex root causes—one commonly associated with depression. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 25 million Americans suffer from depression yearly. More than 50% of people who died by suicide had depression and when combined with alcohol, this number increased to 75%. While depression impacts 5% to 8% of Americans, its effects are difficult to deal with. While not exclusionary or exhaustive, individuals suffering from depression may experience the following symptoms:
- Thoughts/conversations about suicide
- Conversations about feeling depressed
- Decreased motivation and energy
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- A loss of interest in daily activities or work
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Poor focus and concentration
- Inability to control emotions
Suicide, Depression, And Alcoholism
Roughly 18% of fatal suicides involved an alcohol dependence, and people who drink are much more likely to have an increased risk of suicide. The connection between alcohol and suicide has been one that has contributed to suicide. To emphasize, depression can be debilitating. Secondly, alcohol is a depressant. This means it reduces brain function by slowing it down. As a result, people who are drinking have poor coordination, can appear to be more relaxed, make poor decisions, and have slurred speech. Combine these effects with suicidal thoughts, depression, or anti-depression medication, and the end result could be potentially dangerous.
In some cases, people who are experiencing symptoms of depression may have a harder time feeling the effects of alcohol. For starters, they may be emotionally numb or may have developed a tolerance to alcohol (needing more for the desired effect). If an individual have a history of drinking alcohol to cope with depression, they might develop a tolerance, resulting in higher levels of consumption, which can cycle back to the dark, lonely, hopeless feelings; an endless loop of despair and destruction.
Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse
Frequent alcohol abuse alters the brain’s chemistry. This means it can change how we function and how we perceive the world around us. Quitting suddenly with no process of detoxing or weaning from the substance is not advised as it makes the individual more prone to alcohol withdrawal. If one experiences severe withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, tremors, high blood pressure, or seizures, it is often a sign of the body’s dependance on alcohol, craving more to feel less. At this stage, it takes the support and monitoring of a medical professional to ensure detoxing from alcohol is done effectively and safely. In addition to the ongoing care needed to treat alcohol dependence, those in a facility receive medication to assist with symptoms of depression or anxiety and can engage with a support group for connection.
Reasons for suicide range depending on the individual; however, it has several warning signs. It is important to understand the warning signs so that you might help and encourage someone on the road to recovery. The following are most commonly associated with both non-fatal and fatal suicide attempts:
- Conversations about suicide
- Frequent conversations about death
- Feeling as if they are a burden to others
- Feeling lost and lacking purpose in life
- Feeling trapped
- Increased substance use
- Behaving more anxiously
- Isolation or increased isolation
- Self-harm (cutting)
- Sleeping more
- Extreme or increased moodiness
Additionally, people with a history of mental health challenges, a history of trauma, chronic illness or pain, a family history of suicide, exposure to people who have died of suicide, depression and/or substance abuse are most at risk.
Surviving Suicide And Healthy Coping
People who have survived suicide attempts should remember to practice self-care and be mindful of what thought processes caused suicidal tendencies. Understanding the circumstances which have led to the attempts may be a beneficial factor in prevention. Maintaining social support and having loving, supportive family members can help with mood stabilization, feelings of hopelessness, and encourage healthy relationships. For those who have a history of substance abuse and suicide attempt(s), maintaining care and health guidelines from rehab facilities can help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Eating healthy foods and exercising can produce dopamine, or those “feel good” chemicals that enhance one’s vitality. Protecting one’s mental health via journaling, getting treatment for mental health conditions, and using effective medications can also be of great help. Any signs of depression, repeated substance abuse, and suicidal ideations should be taken seriously. Any individual in distress can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, go to the nearest emergency room, or attend a rehab facility if applicable.
Support Is Available
There are numerous treatment options for those struggling with intense thoughts of suicide who cope by using substances. There is no shame in seeking the support necessary to live a healthy life. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss treatment options. There is help and support available. Make an empowered decision and reach out today.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Edited: June 20, 2022
Medical Reviewer: Dayna Smith-Slade