In 2005, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration established a suicide prevention hotline in an effort to reach out to and help more individuals who desperately need it. In November 2015, after a decade in operation, this hotline answered its millionth call, indicating what a major public health issue suicide really is. Research has indicated that substance abuse is one of the most significant risk factors for suicide, and that roughly ninety percent of individuals who succeed in committing suicide suffered from substance abuse or mental health issues or both. For this reason it can be incredibly dangerous for parents to ignore their child’s drug use problems, assume they aren’t “too bad”, or hope they will resolve on their own. It is far better to determine whether one’s child is at risk for substance abuse related suicide, and then take decisive action to help resolve it.
How Substance Abuse is Related to Suicide
Statistics have indicated that women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men, but men are four times more likely to succeed in their suicide attempts than women. Additionally, young individuals between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four and senior individuals over the age of sixty-four seem to be more vulnerable to suicide attempts than others. There are anywhere between one and two hundred unsuccessful suicide attempts for every successful suicide that occurs in individuals between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, while the American College Health Association has reported that ten percent of college students admit to having seriously considered suicide in the prior year. Approximately fourteen out of every one hundred thousand seniors over the age of sixty-five die as a result of successful suicide attempts. So how many of these individuals also suffer from substance abuse?
In 2005, SAMHSA reported that over one hundred thirty-two thousand individuals were admitted to Emergency Rooms that year for substance-related suicide attempts. Thirty-three percent tested positive for alcohol use and twenty percent tested positive for illicit drug use. Among the youth suicide attempts reported, almost half were related to the use of pain medications. These medications have often been obtained through a household medicine cabinet, a family member or a friend, and because they are FDA-approved and doctor recommended for use, they are rarely viewed as dangerous. Only when they have taken over and significantly impacted their life does the individual try to do something about it–and unfortunately they sometimes consider that ending their life is the only option.
Determining Risk for Substance Abuse Related Suicide
There are a wide variety of signs and symptoms of suicidal thinking which are largely dependent upon the individual’s specific personality. If a child is using drug substances, there is always some risk of suicide. Drug use can lead to depression, mood swings, aggressive behavior and risky behavior. In order to determine whether one’s child is at risk for substance abuse related suicide, one should consider these points:
● If a child is talking about death or suicide in a casual manner, there is a risk of suicide.
● If a child is withdrawing from others, there is a risk of suicide.
● If a child indicates that they feel trapped or hopeless, there is a risk of suicide.
● If a child starts giving away their possessions and showing no interest in acquiring new ones, there is a risk of suicide.
● If a child is participating in risky behaviors, there is a risk of suicide.
If you suspect that your child is at risk for substance abuse related suicide, you should take immediate action to get them professional help and treatment. The purpose of rehabilitation treatment programs is to help an individual recover their ability to live a healthy, happy and productive life that is free from drug use, and it includes addressing both mental and physical causes and effects. In an emergency, you can take your child to the closest emergency room, but you should never wait for any length of time if you suspect or know that substance abuse is occurring, because it only takes one successful suicide attempt for your child to lose their future.