Suicide and addiction are two of the largest health risks of our day. Suicide is the second most common cause of death among young adults and teenagers and one of the top 10 leading causes of death overall in the U.S. Additionally, 3 million Americans have had or currently have an opioid addiction. These two concerns are very closely related.
People who suffer from addiction additionally suffer from suicidal tendencies and vice versa. Often, drug abuse can alter the brain and cause mental illnesses. Other times, drug abuse and addiction occur in individuals who already experience mental illness, using drugs to cope and self medicate.
You can’t address one issue without also addressing the other. When someone is struggling with both addiction and mental illness, it’s best to treat both issues side-by-side.
Suicide is rarely caused by just one thing. Instead, a series of issues combine to lead a person to think about suicide or ultimately attempt suicide. Some of those risk factors include social isolation, a family history of suicide, and being a victim of bullying or violence. Two of the most common and dangerous risk factors, however, are drug addiction and mental illness. In fact, more than 90% of people who die from suicide have either been diagnosed with depression, have a substance abuse disorder, or both.
If someone has any of these risk factors, especially if there is a combination of risk factors present, it’s important for that person to get access to support and guidance. The sooner that person gets the proper help, the better.
While suicide is a growing concern, it’s essential to remember that it is preventable. 80% of people exhibit warning signs before making a suicide attempt. These warning signs can come in many different forms, but it’s important to be on the lookout for them, especially if you know someone exhibiting multiple risk factors for suicide.
Some topics of conversation people talk about can be warning signs of suicide. If you notice someone talking or joking about suicide and dying, they may be considering suicide. If someone is speaking about not having a reason to live, feeling trapped or hopeless, or being a burden, these are all indications that someone could be contemplating suicide.
If someone is experiencing an increase or sustained feelings of self-hatred, depression, anxiety, irritability, shame, or anger, they may be at risk of suicide, even if they don’t speak about it frequently.
You can also look for behavioral changes as an indicator of suicide risk. When someone begins isolating from people or activities they used to enjoy, that could be a warning sign. Another warning sign is making preparations for death such as giving away possessions, visiting people to say goodbye, or making a will.
Don’t forget that an increase in drug or alcohol use is also a significant warning sign that someone is at risk of suicide. And finally, if you notice someone researching methods of suicide, they are likely seriously considering it, and should get help as soon as possible.
Opioids affect chemicals in the brain like dopamine and endorphins, which both cause feelings of pleasure and euphoria. These chemicals can also block the feeling of pain in the body, which is why they are often prescribed to people with severe pain. These drugs are highly addictive, so it’s extremely important that if they’re used for pain, the patient using them should be closely monitored and supported by a doctor.
Opioid addiction is very dangerous because it’s easy to accidentally overdose. In fact, the number of overdose deaths is increasing in the United States. In 2020, there were 93,000 drug overdose deaths, which is the highest number the U.S. has ever recorded. Not only can opioids lead to accidental overdose, but they are also very dangerous for a person contemplating suicide to have access to due to their deadly nature.
Similar to suicide, there isn’t just one cause of opioid addiction. Many of the things that lead someone to contemplate suicide can also lead to drug abuse. Physical pain and mental illness can both lead someone to abuse opioids because once they are used, many people have difficulty stopping.
There are many warning signs of addiction or opioid abuse. Changes in friends, hobbies, attitude, or personality could be indicators of an addiction. Isolation and secretive behavior are also warning signs of an addiction.
Besides behavioral changes, you can watch for physical signs of opioid use. Drowsiness, change in appetite, weight loss or gain, small pupils, and flu-like symptoms could all indicate a drug addiction.
Drug addiction can be prevented through strong education about both the effects of substance abuse and how to use healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress or other negative emotions and events. Both suicide and drug abuse can be prevented by watching for early warning signs and responding appropriately when you see them.
The number one way to prevent drug addiction or suicide in a loved one is to provide a strong support system or a community of friends and family. It’s especially helpful when the community includes others who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts or addiction. Connection is one of the strongest tools for overcoming both addictions and suicidal thoughts. If you see signs of either opioid addiction or suicidal thoughts in a friend or family member, reach out to the person with love and acceptance.
Addiction and suicidal thoughts can both be treated at a medical facility or recovery center. Often, people struggling with either of these issues will require more than just the support of friends and family members. Medical interventions are often necessary and extremely beneficial.
Professionals trained in helping individuals suffering from mental illness and drug addiction have saved countless lives and helped numerous people get back on track to a happy and healthy and healthy life. Reach out to a professional if you or a loved one is dealing with either of these issues.
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