Suicide and Substance Abuse:
A Grim Connection

A man with a gun

The media and the experts will openly discuss much when it comes to the health and vitality of the American people in modern-day America, but there is a lot that gets swept under the rug. For example, something that does not get discussed much is the very grim yet very real connection between substance abuse and suicide. Especially in middle-aged men but honestly occurring in all demographics, people who commit suicide are almost always abusing a substance at the time of the suicide, and addicts are statistically speaking far more likely to commit suicide than non-addicts are.

Suicide in the 21st Century

Unfortunately, the truth about suicide and substance abuse is not a commonly discussed subject, and that’s because the number one drug that prompts suicide is pharmaceutical drugs. Yes, the very drugs that are supposed to help us with both physical and mental woes are the very drugs that are most likely to inspire us to take our own lives. A grim dichotomy, but a true one.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • From 1999 to 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased by about twenty-four percent as a national average. The rate increased from 10.5 people to 13.0 people per 100,000 U.S. residents, with the pace of increase being far greater after 2006. To this day, suicide rates continue to grow in the U.S.
  • When suicide rates are broken down to the demographics involved in such suicides, the greatest percent increase in suicide rates for females was for females ages 10–14, and for males, it was men aged 45–64. For men in that age range, suicide increased by more than sixty percent.
  • The CDC also measures how people commit suicide. The most frequent suicide method in 2014 for males was firearms by a large margin, (55.4%). For females, on the other hand, poisoning was the most frequent method of suicide, (34.1%).

How Suicide and Substance Abuse are Connected

Gun and drugs

Suicide and substance abuse are closely connected. They always have been, but as substance abuse statistics have increased in the last twenty years, so too have suicide statistics. What we have now are people who are taking drugs that clearly say on the label that they, “Increase the risk of suicide” or that they, “Promote suicidal ideation” in a person. People are taking powerful, mind-altering pharmaceutical drugs at rates more than quadruple the rates they were taking such drugs in the 1990s. With suicide being such a common side effect of such medicines, it is no surprise that such medicines are causing suicide statistics to also increase.

A person in their right mind is extremely unlikely to take their own lives. A suicide is a heartrending and cataclysmic crisis that requires very specific phenomena to be in place for it to even occur. For one, a person has to be suffering from absolutely traumatic life circumstances. A person does not commit suicide unless they truly feel like all hope for life is completely gone.

The other factor that usually needs to be in place for a suicide to occur is a level of mental displacement due to the consumption of alcohol, pharmaceuticals, or street drugs. A person usually needs to be in a totally altered state of mind to bring themselves to take their own lives, and substances create this altered mindset.

Autopsy reports show that the vast majority of suicide victims had some kind of mind-altering substance in their bodies at the time of the suicide. Because of this, it is safe to operate with the knowledge that addicts’ lives are always at risk, and we should always be trying to help them, lest they do something very, very foolish. Rehabilitation and recovery is the answer to an addict’s problems. Suicide is not.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.