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 teen suicides 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 Teen Suicides 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 teen suicides 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 teenage 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 to many teen suicides 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.