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Alcohol Use And Suicide – Risk Factors, Dangers, And Prevention

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Alcohol use and addiction have been linked to a number of health problems and other consequences. These include social, financial, and work problems as well as the risk of overdose and disease. However, there is one consequence that is commonly overlooked – the increased risk of suicide.

Alcohol is a component in an estimated 25 percent of all suicides in the United States. Additionally, it’s been found that suicide is up to 120 percent more likely among adult alcoholics than the general population. These statistics are alarming and should not be taken lightly.

There are several ways that alcohol use and addiction may contribute to the risk of suicide. Let’s look at the relationship between alcohol and suicide.

Risk Factors Associated With Alcohol Use And Suicide

Alcohol use and addiction and suicide have a number of risk factors in common. For example, genetics play a role in the development of both conditions. However, it’s important to note that having one or many risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean a person will experience alcohol addiction or suicide.

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Common risk factors that may influence a person’s predisposition to alcohol addiction and/or suicide include:

  • Genes — Substance use disorders are highly genetic. If someone has a close relative who suffers from alcohol addiction, he or she will be much more likely to experience addiction as well. Additionally, having a family member who has engaged in suicidal behavior or died by suicide increases a person’s risk of exhibiting the same behaviors.
  • Exposure — Being exposed to either suicide behaviors or alcoholism in the home and community increases a person’s risk for both conditions.
  • Stressors — Environmental stressors may play a role in a person’s susceptibility to both alcohol addiction and suicidal behavior. However, the risk is believed to be impacted more by how a person perceives these stressors than by the stressors themselves.
  • Trauma — Traumatic experiences such as use and violence may influence the development of alcohol addiction and/or suicidal behaviors.

Additional risk factors for both alcohol addiction and suicide may include unemployment, poverty, and loss.

There are also certain risk factors that are specific to each condition. For example, a previous suicide attempt is one of the strongest risk factors associated with future suicidal behavior. Stressors such as an alcohol relapse or the loss of a loved one can also directly influence a person’s risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Danger Signs Of Alcohol-Related Suicide Risk

It’s not always easy to determine when someone is in danger of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Many people experiencing both suicidal tendencies and alcohol addiction stay quiet about their conditions. However, there are some signs that may indicate that someone is at an increased risk of alcohol-related suicide.

Danger signs of alcohol-induced suicidal thoughts or behaviors include:

  • Dangerous Or Risky Behavior — A common side effect of alcohol intoxication is increased participation in risky behaviors such as sexual encounters and drunk driving. However, someone who attempts or hints towards extremely dangerous experiments or behaviors may be indicating a pre-planned alcohol-induced suicide attempt.
  • Talking About Suicidal Thoughts — Joking or talking about suicide while intoxicated could be a sign that someone is at risk for going through with these thoughts.
  • Previous Suicidal Attempts Or Self Harm — Someone with a past history of suicidal behavior or suicide attempts who is also addicted to alcohol is more likely to participate in future suicide behaviors.

Danger signs of suicide should not be ignored. Even if the person appears to be joking, stress or another negative event could trigger the person to act on a suicidal impulse.

Prevention Of Alcohol-Related Suicide

Seeking treatment for co-occurring alcohol addiction and depression is the best way to prevent the possibility of alcohol-induced suicide. While research on suicide and alcohol addiction treatment is limited, great success has been shown in treating a dual diagnosis of addiction and depression.

Individuals suffering from these conditions often find the most success through formal treatment programs specializing in dual diagnosis. This may include inpatient or residential treatment. Many inpatient programs offer comprehensive plans of recovery to address every aspect of a person’s dual diagnosis.

Many people will experience decreased depression symptoms like suicidal thoughts after a period of abstinence from alcohol. However, most people will need to continue with long-term mental health treatment for the best results.

To learn more about alcohol and suicide, contact a treatment specialist today.