October 13, 2017

Suicide and Drug Addiction

On an annual basis, the Psychiatric Times reports, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with 34,000 individuals taking their own lives, and with 5% of American adults making a serious suicide attempt. About 90% of those who commit suicide have a mental health disorder, and one third of those people are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Addicts with co-occurring disorders are six times more likely to commit suicide than the average population. These individuals typically require a drug rehab that features a solid dual diagnosis program.

Addicts suffering with depression, or with Bipolar Disorder I or II, are especially vulnerable to having suicidal ideations.

For addicts who have suicidal thoughts, hope has run out, (or so they believe). They become conscious of their chaotic lives, which are a result of losing jobs, being shunned by family and/or other factors. Additionally, substance abuse leads to clinical depression because drugs of abuse tamper with the brain stem, cerebral cortex and the limbic system, the latter being the part of the brain that is known as the “reward center.” Drugs target the limbic system, releasing excessive amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates feelings of euphoria. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term drug abuse causes the brain to put the brakes on the dopamine. Let’s imagine the amount of dopamine being released is like accidentally turning up the volume all the way up on a car stereo. While the driver will turn down the volume, the brain curtails the capacity of dopamine.

The brain’s restraint of dopamine causes the addict to feel depressed. Then life becomes a vicious cycle.  To combat those dark feelings, addicts use a larger quantity of drugs to get high. Ultimately, the drugs stop working, and the addict feels lifeless. This is a dangerous place to be, both mentally and physically.

Another perilous aspect of substance addiction is isolation. Addicts are in their own world, and often their loneliness can be unbearable. Whether they are by themselves, or in the presence of others, it’s hard for them to connect. They are too busy obsessing about their next fix and/or drink, and feelings of shame, guilt and remorse make them withdraw from other people. So they turn to their drug of choice or contemplate suicide. Sometimes they drink and/or use more than their bodies can handle, and die of an overdose.

Suicidal feelings not only affect those who are still using and/or drinking, but also can target newly clean and sober addicts, because without their drugs of choice, painful emotions often emerge to the surface. A comprehensive substance abuse and addiction treatment program could have really helped them deal with those painful feelings, which are often the reason they drank and/or used to begin with.

And then there are the pink cloud people who talk about how great their lives are, even though they are newly clean and sober. In reality, their lives are a mess. Perhaps they are facing jail time for DUI’s, have lost their jobs, and/or have had family shun them. While they experience a pink cloud, they are immune to facing reality. Eventually, painful feelings will emerge, and what happens next, really depends on the individual. While others work on their recovery, some relapse. And then there are those who contemplate suicide because their pink cloud has turned into a thunderstorm.

Many years ago, at an AA meeting, I heard a speaker say that when he became newly sober, he did not have a pink cloud. (As a matter of fact, neither did I, if anything, I felt like that character from Charlie Brown, who had the rain cloud over his head). The speaker said that he was wading in a sea of remorse. While he discussed the importance of the 12 steps in helping him heal from those feelings, I felt that I needed more than the steps, because after I got sober, depression hit me like a two by four, and often immobilized me. Sometimes it was hard for me to open my Big Book, let alone do step work.

I wish I had gone to Cycles of Change Recovery Services where I could have built a solid foundation in recovery.

Cycles of Change Recovery Services offers a clinical, evidence-based treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, as well as 12-step facilitation.

Set against the picturesque landscape of the Antelope Valley desert, the beautiful gender-specific homes at Cycles of Change Recovery Services provide the perfect atmosphere for healing from the damages of substance addiction.

Instead of isolation, clients receive ample support, from staff and their peers. And the spacious houses give clients space and room for reflection.  At night, colorful water fountains cascade from the pools, creating a sense of serenity.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We are here to help.

Sources

“Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse.        https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain

IIgen, Mark, and Felicia, Kleingberg, MSW. “The Link Between Substance Abuse, Violence and Suicide.” Psychiatric Times.           http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/substance-use-disorder/link-between-substance-abuse-violence-and-suicide

Ross, Carolyn. “Suicide: One of Addiction’s Hidden Risks.” Psychology Today. 20 Feb. 2014.      https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/real-healing/201402/suicide-one-addiction-s-hidden-risks

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