A Closer Look At Substance Use and Suicide Risk

Substance abuse is a prominent risk factor for suicide attempts. Studies show that people with drug addiction are up to 14 times more likely to die from suicide than the general population. Almost a quarter of suicides are committed under alcohol intoxication, while opiates are responsible for about 20 percent of suicides.

Mental health professionals agree that substance abuse never occurs in a vacuum, but what is the relationship between substance abuse and suicide? Let’s discuss why people struggling with addiction commit suicide, how it links to other mental disorders, and what treatment options are available.

Why People Struggling With Addiction Commit Suicide

There can be varying reasons for someone with an addiction to commit suicide. They may harbor negative feelings for themselves, such as shame, sadness, or anger. Or, they may feel guilty about how their addiction has affected their loved ones.

Other reasons include uncertainty about living without your desired substance, low self-esteem, impaired judgment, and poor impulse control. Additionally, they may be under legal or financial stress, causing them to feel helpless. In this case, most deaths include gambling-related suicides.

Some risk factors, like a familial history of suicide, self-harm behavior, or a previous suicide attempt, can increase the likelihood of attempted suicide. This risk increases further when you have a substance use disorder and psychiatric disorder.

The Link Between Mental Health Disorders, Drug Addiction, and Suicide

Various surveys have provided researchers with insights into the relationship between drug abuse and suicide. One study involving adults who drink alcohol found that suicidal ideation was present among participants with depression. And one review of all non-traffic injury deaths linked to alcohol intoxication found that over 20 percent were suicides.

Previous research literature indicates that substance use is frequently comorbid with depressive disorders or symptoms. Depressive feelings, coupled with the underlying struggles of addiction, can contribute to a higher risk of suicide. Seeking professional treatment at Luxury Addiction Treatment Center can help you identify and treat the problem.

What is the relationship between depression and addiction?

One study indicates that participants who reported having made a suicide attempt before were highly likely to have a depressive disorder, and many other respondents also had a substance use disorder. Although there are different theories as to whether one causes the other, a more likely explanation is that both depression and substance abuse can create a vicious cycle that sustains itself.

Young adults suffering from depressive disorders may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine can cause euphoria, temporarily improving your mood. Similarly, depressant substances like alcohol can reduce negative feelings.

Qualitative research evidence summarized shows that young adults used alcohol and substances as a way to cope with stress, low mood, and anxiety. On the other hand, when you’re struggling with substance abuse, its negative effects on relationships and health can increase your risk of depressive feelings.

The Most Suicidal Addiction: Gambling Disorder

According to a review of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (2007), an analysis investigating mental health, people with a gambling addiction are highly likely to consider suicide and make a suicide attempt. Based on statistics of gambling-related suicide victims, up to 39 percent of problem gamblers have suicidal ideation.

Moreover, problem gamblers are also more likely to feel lonely and isolated from others. Studies on gender and gambling preference show that men are over seven times more likely to engage in problem gambling than women.

Understanding Gambling-Related Harm

Compulsive gamblers face medical, psychiatric, and financial factors that increase the risk of depression and suicide. People with gambling addiction often report insomnia, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and other stress-induced issues.

Furthermore, compulsive gambling is linked to anxiety disorders, hypomania, and major depressive disorder. And most significantly, they accumulate debts that can lead to bankruptcy and foreclosures. It shows that gambling-related suicide is associated with immense financial stress.

Steps Towards Treatment

It can be difficult to struggle with substance abuse, gambling harm, and suicidal feelings on your own, so treatment from a professional rehab is recommended. You’ll receive medical guidance and support at a treatment center while under the supervision of experts. If you experience suicidal urges due to a gambling addiction, seeking problem gambling services can help.

Have Safer Surroundings

The first step to ensuring your safety and well-being involves having safe surroundings. Doing so will help you delay the urge to engage in self-harm behaviors. To make your surroundings safer, remove weapons, razors, and knives. You should also put away pills and medication that can have fatal effects in excess.

If you experience the urge to commit suicide, keep such items away and ensure they’re inaccessible for the next few days. You can also give these items to a friend, ensuring they stay out of reach. You can also call a gambling helpline to speak with someone who can walk you through different steps and ensure your safety.

Get Addiction Treatment

The next step should be to seek long-term addiction treatment for your addiction or problem gambling. A treatment center that uses a holistic approach will address addiction risk factors instead of exclusively treating substance abuse. The initial phases of treatment will involve detoxification from your preferred substance.

In certain cases, such as when alcohol addiction is involved, you may require medication to address uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Medically-supervised detox will help you manage withdrawal symptoms, allowing you to cut back on the substance. Patients who have suicidal tendencies and display suicidal behavior will be assessed to determine if they require medication to address symptoms of low mood.

See a Professional Therapist

Part of your continued treatment plan requires you to see a professional therapist who can help address your addiction concern, whether you struggle with substance use disorder or pathological or disordered gambling. Therapists who specialize in addiction and suicidality will recommend psychotherapeutic techniques that provide you with coping strategies. The aim of such therapies is to help stabilize your mood, reduce feelings of hopelessness, deal with urges to abuse substances, and keep you on the path to recovery.


Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about addiction and suicide.

What addiction has the highest suicide rate?

Gambling addiction suicide rates indicate that problem gambling contributes to financial burdens and mental distress, which can increase your risk of suicide.

What is a psychological risk factor for addiction?

Having a mental health disorder like depression, ADHD, or PTSD can increase the risk of developing an addiction.

What is the biggest risk factor for addiction?

Having a family history of addiction is among the biggest risk factors for addiction.

What are the 10 risk factors for addiction?

The 10 risk factors that lead to addiction include:
1. family history of addiction
2. genetic makeup
3. pre-existing mental health disorder
4. peer pressure
5. early use of substances
6. lack of parental supervision
7. taking highly addictive substances
8. method of use
9. abuse or trauma
10. impulse control problems

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