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Suicide and the opiate crisis. Why aren’t we talking about it?

One thing I hear little of in mainstream media is how many suicides this opiate crisis has triggered. Many of the people suffering substance abuse disorder (addiction) also suffer a mental illness such as anxiety, bipolar or depression.

Throw drug abuse in there with a mental illness, and chances of suicide increase dramatically.

We hear a lot in the media about overdoses and we should be. We have a record breaking epidemic of them.

But what about the suicides triggered by drug addiction or withdrawal?How many of those overdoses are really suicides? How many take their lives in some other way as a result of their misery with their addiction?

Many of those in recovery will tell you they felt suicidal when they were using. Or withdrawing.

But prior to my son taking his life as a result of depression and withdrawal from heroin, I had never heard that suicide was possibility. Not once. They take shoe strings and cords out of sweatpants for people going into detox. They talk about it on recovery boards all the time.

But in mainstream media? The subject of suicide and addiction is rarely spoken of. Therefore those of us who do not frequent those boards don’t know about it.

Suicides have tripled since 1999. It’s the second leading cause of death across college campuses nationwide. No doubt drugs and alcohol have a hand in this rise. Addiction rates are above the national average for veterans and as a group, they have one of the highest suicide rates.

I worried night after night I’d get that call. And when it came, I was utterly shocked to find out it was a suicide. Yet it’s actually a common cause of death among those who suffer addiction.

My son was trying to hint at his suicidal thoughts about a month before he died, right after detox. I know now these phrases indicate a suicide risk.

“I don’t want to ever go through that again.”

“I felt so lonely in detox.”

“I am so sorry I am such a bad kid. I will try to be better.”

“I don’t think I was meant to live a long life.”

In his text message below from May 2, 2015 –about a month before he died, you see these sentences.

“Withdrawal made me feel so alone”

“It made me hate myself.” Again, strong indicators of suicidal ideation.

It’s time we recognize that addiction is a mental illness. Mental illness is often the cause of suicide. And suicide is frequently a cause of death from addiction.

If you have an addict in your family, educate yourselves on what phrases indicate suicidal thoughts.

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Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked mental health speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational mental health keynotes, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, anxiety, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

One thought on “Suicide and the opiate crisis. Why aren’t we talking about it?”

  1. Many people take opiates not to get high but to feel relief…any relief from the vice gripping and squeezing their brain to the point of utter despair. A tolerance builds up and more of the opioid is needed to loosen the vice. Many people die, young and old, of an unintentional overdose because they can’t ingest enough of the drug to feel relief, but their breathing stops. And they never wake up.

    People addicted to opiates like heroin need more than a few weeks or even a few months in rehab. The drug is so insidious that it takes their will completely away to seek help other than to hunt down more heroin. Intervention is required and a minimum of one year in an environment where they are cut off from all narcotics, pot, alcohol and other drugs. Only at that point can their brain allow them to discover and practice healthy coping skills, opening the doors to hope. Then there is a fighting chance of survival. Unfortunately, the cost of such treatment is astronomical.

    And so prisons become rehabs. Some prisons and jails have launched good drug rehab and mental health programs and turned lives around. I support using my tax dollars to help addicts in jail get treatment that works. Many times these addicts are good kids who got into bad drugs to ease their pain. A pain that is real and debilitating as the worst form of cancer. It’s hard to understand that unless you lived through it and have seen your loved ones suffer, fought for their care, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in care and still lose the battle.

    My son died in a car crash following a long struggle with mental illness. And his father, who was bipolar and had depression and anxiety, died of an overdose. I found him dead after he took a lethal mix of sedatives and narcotics. My nephew is in jail because of heroin use. There is hope for him!

    Mental illness is real. Drug abuse is the symptom. Death is the result, but it doesn’t have to be that way if we as parents, a community and a country work together to fight the stigma and get the right help that is so desperately needed for our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, and for our family to live!

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