Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and it does not come as a surprise that drug and alcohol abuse is one of the major factors contributing to it. Although a number of factors contribute to the path leading towards a suicide, it has been observed that individuals who engage in high-risk behaviors are more likely to go through with a suicide attempt than those who like to play it safe.

A common method of trying to understand the relationship between addictive substances like drugs and alcohol and suicide is to examine population data. This is helpful because it allows the researchers to understand the society-wide effects of substance abuse on the increasing rate of attempted suicides.

Let’s have a look at some of the more popular opinions to understand how drugs and alcohol play a major part in suicide.

How Suicide is Linked to Substance Abuse

While researchers try to pinpoint the relationship between substance abuse and suicide, a number of hypotheses have surfaced.

1. A Direct Causal Effect

The link between suicide and substance abuse can be loosely described as a “cause and effect” relation where one factor increases the risk of other. In other words, substance abuse and suicidal tendencies play an equal part in promoting each other.

An individual having suicidal ideation is more likely to turn towards drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, the excessive use of these addictive substances works to bring out the suicidal ideation in individuals. In short, they have a direct causal effect where one of them would lead to the other.

2. The Indirect Approach

The indirect casual approach believes that addiction and suicide are not directly related but there are a number of intermediary factors that play a part to form a relation between them. These intermediary factors can be anything from financial and relationship issues to the death of a closely related person.

To understand this concept clearly, imagine a person who displays addictive behaviors being faced with a very difficult situation, such as losing a job or a loved one. Such an individual is more likely to show suicidal tendencies than someone who does not engage with drugs and alcohol.

This means that addictive behavior alone is not the reason behind the increasing number of suicide attempts. Rather, the coexistence of substance abuse AND unfortunate intermediary factors is the lethal combination that works to increase the risk of developing suicidal tendencies.

3. Common Risk Factors

The common factor hypothesis states that the connection between suicide and substance abuse is that they stem from the same conditions and factors. In other words, factors that push a person towards substance abuse also play a major part in making them prone to developing suicidal tendencies.

The list of these common risk factors is wide and overwhelming. Usually factors like mental illnesses and disorders, trauma, adverse childhood experiences, exposure to violence, etc. work to promote substance abuse, as well as suicide.

4. Biological and Psychological Effects

Drugs and alcohol can significantly vary the working of a brain. The biological and psychological effects of substance abuse can lead to a temporary suicide ideation. This short-term suicide ideation risk is more prevalent with the use of synthetic drugs that may have horrific effects like the onset of suicidal and homicidal tendencies.

The worst part is that the exact composition of most of these synthetic drugs is unknown, making it impossible to predict their effects on the brain and behavior of the user.

Role of Drugs and Alcohol Consumption in Suicide

Drug or alcohol consumption preceding a suicide attempt is more common than we realize. Most researchers believe that this happens because using drugs and consuming alcohol impairs the judgment and problem-solving abilities of a person, making them believe that suicide is a valid solution to their problems. This leads to a lot of cases of impulsive suicides.

On the other hand, the dis-inhibiting features of substance abuse contribute to planned suicides by compelling the user to take a leap from suicide ideation to a suicide attempt. In fact, a review of research by Cherpitel found that on average 10% to 73% of suicide attempts involved acute alcohol and drug use.

Preventing Substance Abuse Leading to Suicide

Substance abuse leading to suicide is a grave matter but you can contribute to preventing such unfortunate incidents by looking out for people around you and paying a little more attention to what they say.

People having suicidal tendencies often display a number of warning signs before actually attempting to take their own lives. These signs are not difficult to spot and you can always help by showing your support and getting them the medical attention that they need.

Do you know someone who often uses some of the following phrases in their normal conversations?

  • My family would be better off without me
  • I wish I were dead
  • I feel like I am trapped and there’s no way out
  • Take my possessions/ things, I don’t need them anymore
  • I won’t be bothering you for much longer, anyway
  • You don’t know the way I feel
  • I wish I could talk to you about it
  • Everything will be fine once I am gone

If you notice anyone close to you frequently using such phrases, don’t hesitate to talk to them about their problems. Making a will, obtaining a weapon and setting affairs in order (paying debts, giving away prized possessions etc.), excessively reading or searching about suicide, are all signs of a potential suicidal behavior.

If you are contemplating suicide or know someone who might be, it’s important to seek help at once. A medical facility like Scottsdale Recovery Center can help you with substance dependencies and steer you clear off the road leading to suicide.

Remember, any situation can be changed but a suicide can never be fixed. Things may not seem good right now but life is always worth living.


Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.