Mental health conditions such as depression often co-occur among individuals with substance use disorder (SUD), especially those with opioid use disorder. Co-occurring mental health conditions and opioid addiction may both increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. Health professionals at Laguna Shores Recovery Center can help reduce the risk of self-harm caused by addiction.
Understanding Addiction and the Risk of Suicide
Suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among young people. Research has found a positive correlation between addiction and suicide. People who experience anxiety and depression are at a higher risk of abusing drugs and alcohol. Addiction to these substances can, in turn, worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety, raising the risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
The link between addiction and suicide is also strengthened by the fact that many people with SUD experience fractured relationships with their families. Addiction has the potential to destroy familial connections, professional associations, and personal relationships, even financial standings. These all increase the risk of suicide.
Opioid Addiction and Suicide
No substance is more likely to result in suicide from its abuse than opioid drugs. Many deaths caused by opioid overdose may have been intentional suicides rather than accidental events. People who develop opioid addictions are often those who have chronic pain, personality disorders, or anxiety and depression, for which they take opioids as prescriptions. While these prescriptions may be intended to help their conditions, their use can develop into misuse, dependency, and addiction.
To prevent suicides among opioid users from happening, families need to know the warning signs of both opioid addiction and suicidal ideation. Warning signs of the former include behavioral changes and personality shifts related to opioid use. While spending most of their time thinking about obtaining opioid drugs and using them, people may also develop flu-like withdrawal symptoms that cause sleep and mood issues.
The warning signs of suicide include talking about feeling trapped, verbalizing a desire to die, acting recklessly and impulsively, self-isolating, experiencing extreme mood swings, being sleep-deprived, feeling hopeless, looking up methods for death, or making plans to take their own life. Some may even give away important items or make a will while planning to end their life.
Preventing Opioid Addiction and Suicide
The first step toward prevention is always raising awareness—not just about the connection between opioid addiction and suicide, but about when and how to intervene. If a loved one is taking prescription opioids, it is important to keep the drugs safe from others, ensure the individual is only taking them as prescribed, and watch for symptoms of addiction or suicidal ideation.
To minimize the risk for both opioid addiction and suicide, families, schools, and communities need to increase social support. Educators and health professionals should help people establish healthy coping mechanisms for stress and negative emotions. If an individual thinks someone is at risk of harming themselves, it is important to take action rather than keeping it a secret for that person.
When Opioid Overdoses Risk Lives
Some people intentionally take a high dose of opioids to attempt suicide. Other times, an overdose may happen without the person realizing it. For example, if the opioid is mixed with other medicines or alcohol, it can lead to a fatal overdose. It is important not to mix opioid medication with any other addictive substance or another prescription without consulting a doctor.
Overdoses may happen to people who have certain medical conditions and use opioids. These conditions include sleep apnea, and reduced kidney or liver function. Opioid medications may worsen these conditions, leading to fatal consequences.
The general population needs wider awareness about the warning signs of opioid overdose. These include pale or blue facial complexion, vomiting or making gurgling noises, choking, lack of consciousness, inability to speak, and slowed or stopped heartbeat or breathing. Noticing any of these signs in someone is cause to call for medical help.
Preventing Opioid Overdose
In the case of overdose, individuals need to know how and when to act. To prevent a fatal overdose, people with opioid prescriptions should also seek a prescription for Narcan (naloxone), which can be administered to reverse an overdose. Naloxone is a safe medication that is widely used by emergency medical professionals to treat opioid overdoses.
There are Narcan distribution programs to help families and bystanders act fast to save lives. However, even after administering naloxone, anyone helping someone who has overdosed must call 911 because this medication is only active in the body for 30 to 90 minutes and medical attention is necessary to prevent the overdose incident from becoming fatal.
Harm reduction programs can take many forms. Some common initiatives include overdose prevention, Narcan distribution, and screening. As opioid addiction and subsequent problems like overdose or suicide attempts are ever-present in society, everyone should be aware of the risks, how to prevent them, and what to do when they are not.
If you or a loved one is looking for an addiction treatment center for opioid addiction, consider one that offers harm reduction programs. Opioids are highly addictive and their use may result in overdose or suicide. With harm reduction skills, your loved one has a better chance of recovery and restarting deeper relationships in life. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff understand the science behind opioid addiction and recovery. We apply evidence-based treatment and adopt an integrated approach to recovery. We will walk alongside you or your loved one to offer support and guidance. Our alumni programs include aftercare and connect you with a community of recovering individuals. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community, as peer support is key to recovery. For more information on our programs, call (866) 229-9923 today.