Drug and alcohol abuse are dangerous enough on their own. For some people, however, substance use can be the trigger for depression, anxiety, mental health issues — and even suicidal ideation. Since this month is Suicide Prevention Awareness month, it’s important to know: Is there a greater suicide risk for people struggling with addiction? And is COVID-19 making it worse?
First and foremost, if you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to call the 24 hour Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Substance Abuse and Suicide
According to SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), a person struggling with alcohol misuse is ten times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than someone who is not. SAMHSA also reported people that inject drugs are fourteen times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Opioid use is associated with a 75% increased likelihood of suicide, and opiates and/or painkillers are a factor in more than 20% of suicides (https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4935.pdf).
Why does this happen? It’s not just because addicts and alcoholics hate their lives. Addiction is a brain disease, and it messes with your ability to make good decisions. Specifically, it creates a chemical imbalance in the brain, which makes it nearly impossible to assess the long-term effects of your behavior. In addition, inebriation can cause impulsivity and recklessness in the short-term, making people who abuse substances even more at risk for acting on their suicidal ideations.
COVID-19 and Substance Abuse
Researchers are still exploring the links between COVID-19 and suicide, but early indications are not good. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recently reported that the United States has seen “considerably adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19” and the resulting quarantine. According to the study (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm), between April and July 2020, 13% of Americans began or increased their substance abuse.
Social isolation due to the pandemic is likely behind that rise. In quarantine, people may find themselves drinking or using more often to deal with the stress and loneliness of being in quarantine. At home alone with your thoughts, triggers and cravings can be louder than ever. Then, there’s the element of peer pressure. Friends may be drinking earlier in the day because “there’s nothing else to do.” There’s even been people on social media of people taking selfies of themselves #daydrinking because they’re in quarantine. Any type of alcohol or drug misuse shouldn’t be taken lightly and the pandemic absolutely should not be an excuse for misuse, let alone as inspiration for a meme. Social isolation, working from home, or being unemployed during these challenging times can push you down the slippery slope of addiction. Worse, with increased substance misuse or abuse comes an increased risk of suicide — and the current global situation presents a greater risk as well.
COVID-19 and Suicide
That same CDC study found that from April to July 2020, 31% of Americans experienced anxiety or depression. That’s four times as many as reported symptoms over the same months in 2018. More than 25% experienced trauma-related disorder symptoms, and 11% seriously considered suicide — more than twice the number of people in 2018. For people between 18 and 25 years old, the number with suicidal thoughts was more than 25%, or one in four people. It’s not just fake news: COVID-19 truly is having a serious effect on our mental health in general.
With quarantine restrictions changing every day, we are all being forced to live with a lot of uncertainty. That’s difficult. In the meantime, quarantine has drastically reduced social interactions and increased social isolation for many people.
Pre-quarantine, you probably got social interactions on a daily basis from friends, loved ones, co-workers etc. Now, a lot of those simple moments are gone. Did you take them for granted? Social isolation is considered a risk factor for suicidal thoughts and suicide. Since social restrictions have been put in place, suicide prevention hotlines around the country have reported a mass increase in calls — some up to 300%.
It’s important that we support each other now more than ever during the pandemic and it doesn’t have to be in person. Use facetime or zoom to keep in touch with your loved ones on a daily basis. If you begin to see some red flags for substance abuse and/or suicidal thoughts, reach out and offer your support — or at least, to listen. On the other hand, if you are beginning to worry about yourself, don’t hesitate to get help! Checking into a substance abuse or mental health treatment center will save your life. Treatment facilities not only help individuals get sober, but they focus on the mental health issues when the substance is gone. They can help work through underlying issues and provide the tools you or your loved one needs to live a better life. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Again, if you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out immediately:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
If you or a loved one are showing signs of substance abuse, please don’t hesitate to reach out:
Or, if you’d like to talk about substance abuse, mental health, and how to heal, contact us today.
Getting Clean & Sober at Home
Today, more than 75% of hospitals and healthcare providers offer access to telehealth treatment, with 29 states having gone so far as to enact telehealth parity laws, which force insurance companies to reimburse patients for telehealth at the same rates as they would for in-person treatment.
If you’ve been thinking about getting clean and sober, or if you’ve been wanting to work on and strengthen the recovery you already have, it’s never been easier to do it through telehealth.
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