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Suicide and Substance Abuse: Is There a Connection?

CHICAGO, August 27, 2015

Suicide and Substance AbuseSeptember is National Suicide Prevention Month. Among the many goals of this effort are to raise awareness about suicide and counter the shame, prejudice and silence that surrounds it.

There are more than 37,000 suicides in the U.S. each year, and hundreds of thousands more suicide attempts. The efforts of National Suicide Prevention Month and the many organizations dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention are helping to foster public dialogue and build public support for suicide prevention.

As National Suicide Prevention Month gets underway, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers is taking the opportunity to highlight the connection between suicide and substance abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that alcohol and drug abuse disorders are second only to depression and other mood disorders as the most frequent risk factors for suicidal behavior. Many individuals who have a substance use disorder also receive a diagnosis of mental illness, known as a dual diagnosis. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), 80 percent of adults with an Axis 1 mental health disorder also have a substance use disorder. Axis 1 disorders include depression, mania, excessive anxiety and psychosis.

Inside Dual Diagnosis

When being abused, substances can cause depression, which is the leading cause of suicide, and impulsivity, a common risk factor for suicide. Moreover, substance abuse frequently brings people closer to life events such as job loss, divorce, financial problems and health issues, which indirectly increase their risk of suicide.

Conversely, substances may be abused by people in order to provide temporary relief from the pain caused by depression, or to suppress the shame of having contemplated suicide.

Treating Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders should occur simultaneously. Doing so helps people free themselves from a destructive cycle, which in turn greatly enhances the likelihood of successful treatment.

Effective treatment can involve Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) to assist with initial withdrawal, cravings and detoxification, counselling to help resolve the stressors that may have evolved from substance abuse, and Family therapy which can be a valuable component of treatment.

Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers' Program Director and Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Greg Tierney, explained, "In addition to providing the best care possible, our overriding goal for the treatment of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts is to lessen the stigma of seeking treatment for either condition. When we can eliminate or significantly reduce the shame and guilt associated with these conditions, and help people to be more open about discussing these issues, this will ultimately increase the effectiveness of treatment."

About Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment

Since 1968 our goal has been straightforward: to help clients get their life back on track and achieve a life of sobriety, free from drug use and symptoms of mental illness, that is productive, socially responsible, and healthy. Gateway Foundation is the largest nonprofit treatment provider in the country that specializes in the treatment of substance use disorders, providing treatment for men, women, adolescents, and clients diagnosed with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Gateway's Community Division has treatment centers located throughout Illinois, including Carbondale, Chicago, Lake County, Fox Valley, Springfield, and the St. Louis Metro East area. These centers offer residential and outpatient treatment services for adults, teens, and adolescents accessed through insurance, state funding, and self-pay.

Gateway's professional clinicians help thousands of individuals successfully complete treatment by developing a personalized plan that treats the underlying causes of substance abuse—not just addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Learn more about insurance coverage, treatment options, or Gateway's confidential consultation at or call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Reporters and Editors, for more information, please call Jason Stutz at 312-663-1130.