Substance Abuse and Suicide Risk

substance abuse and suicide riskSuicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. That’s a sobering fact by itself, but did you know that substance abuse and suicide risk go hand in hand?

38,364 Americans committed suicide in 2010. Most of those who commit suicide are men, with the male gender making up 78.8% of suicides in the US, and men are 4x more likely to die after attempting suicide than women. Actual suicides make up a very small percentage of attempted suicides. In fact, for every one suicide there are 25 attempts.

Substance abuse makes it 6 times more likely that the individual will commit suicide. Substance abuse is actually the 2nd most frequent risk fact for suicide after depression. Of those who have committed suicide, 33% tested positive for alcohol, 23% test positive for antidepressants, and 20% tested positive for opiates.  It’s staggering to realize that 24% of men and 17% of women were legally impaired at the time of their suicide.

Why is there a link between suicide and substance abuse? For one, intoxication with drugs or alcohol can decrease inhibition and impair judgment, so an outlook on a situation or period of time can look bleak. As well, drugs and alcohol will increase aggressiveness, so it’s much more likely that the individual will take harmful action when under the influence.