Itâ€™s not always easy to be a teenager. The pressures and temptations of life are challenging, and tragically, some teens choose to start using alcohol or illegal drugs to deal with those pressures. Itâ€™s also sadly true that some teens try to take their own lives. Is there a link between teen substance abuse and suicide? In this article, we will take a look at drug abuse and suicidal behavior in teens. Meanwhile, if you are concerned about your teenâ€™s addiction, please contact us today at 706-480-8733 to learn about how rehab treatments can help.
Depression: The Hidden Link
The epidemic of teen suicides in our nation is impossible to ignore. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2007 and 2017, the suicide rate in teens aged 15 to 19 went up 76 percent. Furthermore, it is still increasing.
Is there a cause for teen suicides? According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), most children and adolescents who attempt suicide have a significant mental health disorder, usually depression.Â Among teens, suicides may also be associated with feelings of stress, self-doubt, the pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, disappointment, and loss. These same feelings can lead teens to abuse drugs and alcohol if they can get access to them.
Itâ€™s important to note that depression itself is not a weakness or a character flaw. However, true clinical depression is a medical condition, and most people with depression will need some kind of treatment â€“ either medical or psychological â€“ to get better.
Many well-meaning people will tell depressed teens to â€œsnap out of it,â€ or â€œitâ€™s not a big deal.â€ But thatâ€™s not unlike telling a drug addict to â€œjust stop.â€ Itâ€™s not that easy. True drug addiction is a disease that requires professional help to overcome. Likewise, someone with an ongoing depression will probably need professional help to get better. Â
Sadness is a normal reaction to some life events and usually passes with time. Depression is different. Like drug addicts or alcoholics, someone with an ongoing depression has a potentially deadly chronic disease and will likely need treatment.
Ask the Tough Questions
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provided a series of questions that people can ask themselves to determine if they suffer from depression. For example, among the questions are these:
- Do you constantly feel sad, anxious, or even â€œempty,â€ like you feel nothing?
- Do you feel hopeless or like everything is going wrong?
- Are you finding yourself spending more time alone and withdrawing from friends and family?Â
- Have your eating or sleeping habits changed?
- Do you ever think about dying or suicide?
- Have you ever tried to harm yourself?Â
Many of these questions are also applicable to children and teens. If a teenâ€™s grades are dropping or they have lost pleasure in activities and hobbies that they used to enjoy, these too are signs of depression.Â
What Makes A Teen Feel Suicidal?
The Mayo Clinic has a list of certain life circumstances that may make a teen feel suicidal. These include having a psychiatric disorder like depression, or a history of exposure to violence including physical or sexual abuse. For instance, other possible links include:
- Problems with alcohol or drugs
- Physical or medical issuesÂ
- Being a victim of bullying
- Being uncertain of their sexual orientation
- Exposure to the suicide of a family member or friend
- Family history of mood disorders or suicidal behavior
While each person is different, if these trends continue to appear in a personâ€™s life, it is a sign that depression might be present. If a parent or guardian can see such signs in a teen, it is worth talking with them to gain a better understanding of how they are feeling. Also, if the teen is unwilling to speak about obvious issues like these in their lives, then it may be time to seek outside help. However, if you need help talking to your teen, then call our experts today. They can provide you with the tools and support you need to help save your child.
Drugs or Suicide: Same Risks
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has found that there is indeed a statistical link between drug use in teens and suicidal behavior. For instance, according to the study:
Suicide attempts were strongly associated with alcohol abuse and dependence, followed by frequent cigarette smoking. The associations remained significant even after controlling for depression. The associations between substance use/abuse and suicidal ideation were no longer significant after controlling for depression. These findings highlight the important role that substance use plays in adolescent suicidal behaviors.
Furthermore, why is substance abuse associated with suicidal behaviors? The NCBI points to several theories, including the high-risk behavior associated with the effects of intoxication. Researchers also suspect that substance abuse disorders may be secondary to other illnesses, such as depression. â€œAs self-destructive behaviors, suicidal behaviors, and substance abuse share common biological, behavioral, and environmental origins or result from common vulnerabilities.â€ On the other hand, many of the risk factors for suicidal behavior are the same risk factors for substance abuse.
Hence, a drug addict may be contemplating suicide due to depression being the underlying cause of both behaviors. Just as teen depression and suicidal thoughts can be linked, teen depression and drug use can, too.
Another link between teens and suicidal behavior can be found in the nature of the adolescent mind. The NCBI points out that an adolescentâ€™s brain is still developing, so teens donâ€™t have a high level of emotional or behavioral control.
Poor impulse control is a key risk factor for both suicidal and substance use behaviors. While impulse control increases with normal development, immaturity in this area explains an adolescentâ€™s tendency to act impulsively. Likewise, teens are more prone to be emotionally reactive and ignore the negative consequences of their behavior. Impulsive, emotional reactivity without consideration of potential consequences increases the likelihood of risk-taking and initiation of substance use. Adolescents with severe impulse control problems may have an earlier onset of substance use.
Even under the best circumstances, young adults can endure a number of stressful life events. These can be quite traumatic, including physical and sexual assaults. While some may dismiss these things as â€œjust part of life,â€ and â€œnothing to worry about,â€ the youth donâ€™t see it that way. They do not yet have the emotional maturity or â€œyears of experienceâ€ to plan for a different future or see good things beyond their immediate circumstances. Thus, the NCBI writes, â€œstressful life events, both traumatic and interpersonal, have been shown to contribute to suicide risk in adolescents. Stressful life events also are risk factors for the onset and escalation of substance use.â€
Do not let your teen suffer alone. We are here to help. Contact our specialists today to figure out what the next best steps are to saving your child from substance abuse.
How You Can Help Your Teen
Advice From The APA
If you are worried about your teenager and want to prevent suicidal behavior, then the American Psychological Association (APA) has some suggestions.
Express your concern. Itâ€™s a myth that if you mention suicide, you might plant the idea. By honestly and openly expressing your concerns, youâ€™ll send an important message that you care and understand. They Parents can be tempted to shut down an upsetting conversation by saying […] â€˜I had a hard time as a teen, but I got over it.â€™ Instead, say, ‘Tell me more about how youâ€™re feeling.’ Then listen. You might want to safeguard a child or teen by keeping him home in a protective cocoon. But isolation can increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. Help a struggling child maintain connections with friends and loved ones. As a parent, spend extra time with your child. Even watching TV or playing video games together sends a signal that youâ€™re there.
The need for compassion is also clear. The APA recommends doing your best to make the teen feel loved and understood, while also reminding them that this too shall pass and that you will be here to help and support them every step of the way. Furthermore, if you feel like the teen needs help immediately, don’t hesitate. If the need is immediate enough, call 911 or taking the youth to a hospital or our center for evaluation. Â
Addiction As A Warning Sign
We have seen that there is a link between substance abuse and suicide in teens. However, the link is probably a common underlying cause for both kinds of behavior. The still-developing mind of a teen may be prone to mental issues (including depression or high-risk behavior) which can bring about both substance abuse and suicide ideation. Thus, the important lesson here is that teen addiction is often a sign of other problems, including suicidal ideation.
Moreover, the parents of a teen addicted to drugs or alcohol need to understand the underlying problems that may have led to this kind of behavior. Those problems need to be dealt with. In some cases, seeking help from a medical professional is the best answer, especially when it comes to drug or alcohol addiction.
The Value Of Rehab
There is no single â€œcure-allâ€ treatment for all addicts. Each person needs to be evaluated for everything that may be contributing to the addiction. That may include depression or a mental imbalance of some kind. The professionals at a rehab facility would be able to determine whatever other issues are contributing to a personâ€™s addiction.
There are many facets to rehabilitation treatment, but the goal is always to help the addict get back in control of their lives. That can be difficult for teens, who are just learning what it means to control your impulses and make good decisions. Rehab is about effectively learning how to do those things. If your teen or loved one has a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, you may want to consider getting them into rehab for treatment.
To summarize, it is almost impossible for an addict to overcome their addictions on their own. Rehab gives people the resources and skills they will need to make decisions that help them, not hurt them. If you are concerned about the dangers of teen substance abuse and suicide, please contact us at 706-480-8733 for information about rehab services in your area. There are people who want to help you and your family live the healthiest lives that you can. Contact them today!
Written by Steve Witucki