In cases where someone makes the devastating choice to take their own life, one of the first questions typically asked is whether drugs or alcohol were involved. But is there a link between suicide and substance abuse? More specifically, does a history of substance abuse make one more likely to show suicidal tendencies?

Recent Evidence

A 2016 study out of Brown University presents the most recent data concerning the link between suicide and substance abuse. The study found that potential suicide risk was associated with a variety of different types of substance abuse. In addition to increased risk of suicide attempts in both alcohol- and cocaine-abusing populations, there was a significantly increased risk of suicide while taking both drugs. It is important to note that this study doesn’t address the cause and effect, only shows a correlation. Meaning it is still unclear whether the substance abuse CAUSES the progression to suicide, or whether these self-destructive tendencies are simply likely to occur in the same populations.

Prior Evidence

However, there have been previous studies and reports showing at the very least an association between suicide and substance abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists alcohol and drug use as critical risk factors for suicide attempts. They note that in 2008, alcohol was a factor in 1/3 of suicides reported in 16 states, and in 2011, there was a 51% increase in drug-related suicide attempts among people aged 12 and older. Further, a white paper released by SAMHSA in 2011 reported evidence that alcohol and drug abuse disorders increased risk of suicide attempts by 6x.

Both Issues Should Be Addressed

Ultimately, while causation is still unclear, it is evident that suicide risk and substance abuse frequently go hand in hand. This is clear from the large amount of mental health issues and dual diagnosis within addicted populations. In order to effectively treat either disorder, it is necessary to treat them both, with respect to the individual’s mental health/drug history and unique set of needs.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and other mental health disorders, get help now- call the professionals at 1-800-203-2024 for your free confidential assessment.