Suicide Rate and Substance Abuse

Suicide is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of those who love someone with a substance abuse disorder. The thought that your loved one could harm themselves to the point of death is excruciating. There is no measure for the impact substance abuse and suicide can have on families and communities.

So, how does substance abuse effect an individual? How does it lead a person to attempt or commit suicide? Research has shown they share a close bond. Learn more about the relationship between substance abuse and suicide in men and women in the following guide.

Table of Contents

The Hard Facts

Understanding the following cold, hard facts about addiction is important.

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death to Americans
  • Drug and alcohol abuse are the 2nd most risk factor
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for people ages 10-14
  • It’s the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 15-34
  • A person is 6 times more likely to commit suicide if they have a substance abuse disorder.
  • 1 in 3 who die of suicide are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Men have a 40%-60% higher rate of suicide than women

The overall opinion of experts is that suicide is becoming an epidemic in the nation that requires attention.

What Drug is Most Responsible for Suicide?

Any substance can lead to suicidal thoughts if taken improperly or abused. Every drug has side effects and a chance of addiction. The drug that stands out from the rest is opioids. Opioids include prescription drugs, heroin, and crystal meth.

According to, in 2015, 33,000 Americans died from suicide due to the abuse of opioids. The number of suicides occurring each year is steadily increasing. 

The first cause is sudden life changes. When the unexpected happens, people often have a harder time coping. The feelings of grief in any circumstance can lead to a state of depression.

Second on this list is stigma. Society has placed a stigma on those who fight depression. They are called crazy, wackos, or recluses. Because of this, people long for a way out. 

They may even choose a method of coping that involves drugs. The drugs give them a feeling of heroism. They can conquer the world and all of the negative thoughts leave their minds.

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How do Opioids Lead to Suicide?

Opioids are in the category of drugs that make you feel like you could do anything. If this is the case, then how could they lead a person to commit suicide? There are several reasons for this.
  1. Overdose

    – An overdose may not be considered suicide, but in some cases it is. Those in active addiction may come to a point where there is no money, no shelter, and no family available to them. At this point, what is there to live for? The very thought of life without that fix is too much to bear.
  2. Inhibition

    – For some people, the high is about the feeling of being uninhibited. Nothing hurts, nothing is wrong in their lives, and quite frankly they feel they can do anything when they are high. The way opioids affect the brain make it possible to act in ways you would not otherwise. This can lead to a scenario where a simple dare given in the moment could lead to permanent heartbreak.
  3. Highly Addictive

    – Opioids are the most addictive drug on the market. They are commonly used to manage chronic pain. Being pain free is enticing which leads to a fear of being without the drug. The fear of life without the drug and being physically in pain can lead to ending one’s life.

Men vs. Women

According to, it is commonly known that men and women are wired differently. This means that men and women will react differently to the same circumstance. This could also be the reason that men are 40%-60% more likely to commit suicide than women. Men are often taught from birth that “boys don’t cry.” Society expects men to be strong and provide for their families. The pressure society puts on men often lead them to depressive states. They feel unworthy of life. To combat these feelings, they often turn to drugs. Men also have a deeper motivation to get the “job” done. Once they have reached a point where the drugs are no longer working, they will become more determined to end their lives. With the use of an opioid they can have the bravery to pull the trigger or fill the needle one too many times. Women are usually the better communicators. They are taught to share their feelings. Women are more likely to seek help than men are. It is an accepted thought that women are more vain than men. They don’t want to look bad in life or death. Because of this, women who attempt suicide choose a drug overdose as the preferred method.

Final Thoughts

Suicide and substance abuse share a fatal bond. It is not just about the high causing a person to act in a way they would not normally act. It is more about how society and the medical community can learn more about this link and provide needed support. Experts and families may never understand fully what makes a person consider suicide, but they can strive to learn more about this epidemic. They can be active in changing society’s way of thinking. The stigmas are old and outdated. Isn’t saving the lives of people in the United States and around the world more important than the boys will be boys mentality? If you or a loved one has a substance abuse disorder or thoughts of suicide, contact us to connect you with a treatment facility today!




Our writers are experienced in everything related to addiction, mental health, rehab and recovery.

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