Suicide And Addiction–A Scary Relationship

Not just a bad relationship, but a scary one–suicide and addiction. Or is it addiction and suicide? It really doesn’t matter because one leads the other to a bad end.

Nobody who experiments with substance abuse intends to become addicted. There is a common misconception that people believe they’re the exception to the rule and will not become addicted to drugs or alcohol, thus leading to suicide ideation or attempts. This is where suicide and addiction have been shown to have a strong connection. This is also why getting treatment for addiction can potentially save someone’s life.


Whether one’s drug of choice is alcohol, heroin, cocaine, or some other harmful substance, the development of addiction occurs in much the same way for each person: After a period of experimental intoxication, he or she begins steadily increasing the amount consumed as tolerance builds, fruitlessly chasing the intensity of that first time while getting farther and farther away. By the time these individuals realize what has happened, chemical dependency has developed, preventing them from being able to simply stop consuming alcohol or drugs.


As if addiction to alcohol and drugs wasn’t enough on its own, there are high rates of comorbidity—the presence of two illnesses or diagnoses occurring at the same time—among those who suffer from addiction. In fact, many addiction recovery centers offer dual-diagnosis support as a means of preventing an inadequately treated, co-occurring disorder from making individuals more susceptible to relapse. However, there are other risks that seem to be elevated for addiction relative to the rest of the population.


Sources have identified elevated rates of suicide among those who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. More specifically,statistics show that half of all suicides are done by people who suffer from addiction with roughly 25 percent of people attempting suicide at some point over the course of their dependency. Further investigation shows that the correlation between elevated suicide rates and chemical dependency is a result of alcohol and drug addiction frequently suffering from comorbid, or co-occurring, depression.

In fact, a study found that nearly 70 percent of individuals participating in addiction treatment satisfied the diagnostic criteria for major depression, with more than75 percent of those individuals having developed depression prior to the development of alcohol or drug addiction. This indicates that untreated depression could lead to substance abuse and addiction, possibly as individuals attempt to treat their own symptoms with alcohol or drugs.

Moreover, while 26 percent of those individuals admitted to having attempted suicide prior to the onset of addiction, over 28 percent of them admitted to having attempted suicide over the course of the previous year while in active addiction. This could indicate that addiction occurs as a result of untreated depression, but also serves to exacerbate symptoms of depression which results in elevated rates of suicide and addiction.


Studies, such as the above, have led to an important discussion among experts in the addiction recovery community, which is: Does depression cause addiction, or does addiction cause depression? In other words, the problem of determining the nature of the relationship between depression and addiction is much like solving the problem of whether the chicken or the egg came first. However, there have been four clear types of relationships, betweenaddiction and depression:

  • family history of addiction
  • the use of “gateway drugs” as a precursor to addiction
  • the presence of depression
  • a history of suicide

Whether due to having inherited genetic markers for addiction or from growing up exposed to substance abuse, research has found time and again that the children of parents of addiction are significantly more susceptible to developing a chemical dependency than the children of non-addicted parents. Moreover, there have been a number of studies that have identified increased instances of depression in families, but that doesn’t indicate whether addiction and depression in successive generations is a genetic or environmental factor.

However, suicide has also been found with elevated frequency among the children of addicted parents, further confirming a familial correlation. Research indicates that those who embark on the path to addiction by first abusing gateway drugs, such as alcohol or marijuana, are more likely to suffer from depression. Gateway drugs are more widely available and would be accessible to those who would be inclined to use them as a means of self-medicating to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Depression has frequently been identified as a risk factor for alcohol and drug addiction because, as mentioned, individuals who suffer from depressive symptoms tend to look for ways to alleviate those symptoms. Similarly, those who have shown a history of either suicide attempts or suicidal ideations are also at increased risk of substance abuse, occurring for the same reasons as those who suffer from depression.

It’s the hope of the suicidal that frequent abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs will alleviate suicidal feelings, which leads to the continued use and abuse of the substances. Unfortunately, addiction tends to exacerbate symptoms of depression, which is shown by the elevated rates of suicide among depressed people with addictions compared to non-addicted people who suffer from depression.


Rather than addiction leading to depression or depression leading to addiction, the more likely scenario is that each condition can lead and would exacerbate the symptoms of the other, indicating a complicated relationship between the two diseases. Fortunately, both depression and addiction can be managed and treated. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction or depression and would like more information about recovery, Maryland House Detox can help. We have a team of recovery specialists available to give those in need a free consultation and assessment, matching individuals with the programs that can deliver them to a healthy, sober life. Reach out to us via phone or online so we can listen and provide the best options for you or your loved one.

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