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The Role of Alcohol & Drugs in Teen Suicide

The Role of Alcohol and Drugs in Teen Suicides

The Role of Alcohol & Drugs in Teen Suicide
Teenage Alcohol & Drug Use

Alcohol and drugs play major parts in many teen suicides. Although substance experimentation is common among adolescents, some teens use alcohol and drugs in attempts to cope with stress and depression. While about one-fifth of all teens consider suicide, more than two-thirds of those who attempt it are heavy users of drugs, alcohol or both. In fact, substances are directly involved in up to half of all suicides among teens. Parents should take care to understand the importance of this problem and take steps to resolve it when necessary.

Alcohol, Drugs and Depression in Teens

Depression can cause an array of symptoms that teens may not know how to address in healthy ways. Signs of depression include mood swings, social withdrawal, exhaustion and poor performance at school. In some depressed teens, rebellious behavior becomes an outlet for serious depression. Alcohol and drugs are often associated with rebellion, and many teens initially use these substances in order to act out. When teens rely on these substances to hide from the pain they are feeling, they may become more socially isolated, depressed and potentially suicidal.

How Substances Make Suicide More Likely

Abuse of alcohol and drugs can dramatically increase the chances that teens will attempt suicide for a number of reasons. Importantly, substance use often causes disinhibition that may prevent an otherwise reasonable teen from resisting suicidal impulses. As teens become more heavily entangled in a pattern of addiction, they may experience feelings of helplessness and mistakenly think suicide is the only way out of their downward spiral. Finally, access to drugs and alcohol can enable teens to commit suicide in certain dosages or combinations.

Symptoms of Depression and Substance Abuse Can Converge

The symptoms of depression and substance abuse are often similar. Both depressed and substance-abusing teens may alienate family and friends, lose interest in previously enjoyed activities, begin failing in school and display frequent signs of sadness. When parents recognize these symptoms in their teenaged children, they should assess the situation to determine whether drugs and alcohol are involved. Over time, both depression and substance abuse can also lead to each other.

Seeking Treatment for Suicidal Teens with Substance Abuse Disorders

Teens who are depressed and engaging in abuse of drugs or alcohol should be referred to an inpatient program qualified to address dual diagnosis with both problems. Through supervised detoxification from substances, individual and group counseling and life skills training, the right facility can help teens recover from this situation and go on to reach their potential. After inpatient treatment is complete, many teens continue to benefit from outpatient support from counselors.

The combination of depression and substance abuse has led many teens to commit suicide and should not be underestimated. Parents may feel helpless in this situation and wonder if they can help their teens on their own, but professional treatment can be essential for long-lasting recovery. After escaping addiction and depression, teens can get back on track to a bright future free of suicidal impulses.

6 Comments

  • Dylan

    Last Sunday my old friend Sean died of suciide caused by teen depression. Let me tell u a little history about him. He was my very first friend in kindergarten. We were both 5. We were best friends and inseparable. In first grade we added another kid to our friendship named Ben. We were the three amigos. We hung out and did everything together. In fourth grade my friend Sean was forced to move away because of his parents jobs. Ben and I kept in touch with him but grew apart. Last year we all fo

  • Diane C

    This is so sad. I can see where if you have a child who is experiencing these symptoms due to alcohol or drug use – the first impulse is to help them on your own through sheer force of will. I can see how this would not always work as not everyone is trained to deal with these types of addictions and what it take to get them resolved. I can see that getting them to a rehab facility would be the best way to help them.

  • Angie

    Parents should be checking in with their teens as much as possible. Don’t just dismiss their behavior as being a “moody teen”. Afterall, a teenager is still a person who is dealing with things in their own way. No one knows their child better, so as a parent you should have open and honest discussions with your children as to what is going on in life and how they are dealing with things. This will help them cope a bit better, and you can catch the warning signs that your child might be turning to substance abuse to cope. It’s so important. Don’t just go about your day to day activities without really checking in with your children and finding out how they are doing and what is going on. Also, make sure you are a safe person to talk to for them. Let them see that they can tell you what is happening with very little consequences, let them see that communicating doesn’t get them in trouble. That will help them feel like they can open up to you when they are in tight situations.

  • Amanda

    This is a very informative article. I know that many teens have a hard time growing up with the constant struggle between independence being under the direction of your parents. It is like you have to pick and choose when to do things on your own, but then you still have to have permission to do something. It is a tough time for everyone. But with all the pressures of daily life and sorting out who you are as a teen, life can be too much. Then people begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol as an escape all the pressure of life. Then to add to the difficulty teens that are depressed commit suicide and parents do not even see it coming. It is heart

  • Jonathan

    It is a staggering high number of the amount of kids that consider and commit suicide.The fact that it is all substance abuse related should raise a red flag and wake up our country to start coming up with real workable solutions to the problem. As the children of today are the people of tomorrow.

    A teenager shouldn’t be subjected to drugs and alcohol. As they are already dealing with the fact of school, puberty, their first relationships, etc. They have all of these emotions and drugs just alter their emotions even more and can set them completely off the edge. They may also use drugs as an excuse to act out the way that they want to act. Teenagers, especially women, can be emotionally unstable as teenagers as they have their periods for the first time and experience mood shifts, etc. Drugs and alcohol, as the article states, can amplify or alter the emotions and having them not think clearly. Why would you risk having your child put through that? And have them make some bad decisions in the process of doing it.

    I see fully the importance now more than ever to get your child to rehab if he is currently abusing drugs or alcohol.

  • Walter

    I think there is another big factor in getting people to actually look at the fact that there are teenagers who would qualify for going to rehab. A lot of people brush it off to them being rebellious or just wanting to be different, without looking at the actual consequences of what they are doing to themselves and setting themselves up for. There is a lot of things happening when you are a teenager, and it is something that parents need to be observant of and watchful over. We cannot afford to let our children get hooked on substances, many of which have as side effects suicidal thoughts and violent behavior. It is sad that there are as many children committing suicide, about as sad as the number of military personnel. It is time to wake up and smell the roses people. If you do not know what is going on in your child’s life, then you need to get involved and get them to talk to you. Also, we need to not be as permissive and not caring what goes on with the kids in our society. I know of a friend of mine who committed suicide, and if I had actually taken the time to find out what was going on in his life, then he may still be alive today. I like so many others did not pay attention to what he was going through and then when we found out that it happened, it was like getting shot with a bullet, and all of the things that would indicate that could have happened began to playback in my mind. Do not let the warning signs be ignored, if you see a kid that is having a hard time with drugs or alcohol, then you need to get in their space and find out what is going on and DO something about it!

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