Emotional and Mental

How Substance Abuse Affects Brain Chemistry and Suicide Ideation

Published: Oct. 22, 2023

Here’s a statistic to think about: During any given year, almost four percent of adults report suicidal ideation or impulses (as reported by SAMSHA). While there are many reasons that contribute to this thinking, thoughts of suicide are often exacerbated by the use of substances like drugs and alcohol. This puts anyone who abuse these substances at greater risk of actually committing the act.

How Does Substance Abuse Contribute to Suicide?

When substances like drugs and alcohol are consumed, normal brain chemistry is affected.

As discussed in a publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people with substance use disorders and suicidal ideations have an elevated risk of impulsively attempting suicide.

Furthermore, studies indicate that those with alcohol use disorders are 10 times more likely than the general population to go through with suicide, and those who use other substances are 14 times more likely. Additionally, 22% of suicidal deaths involved alcohol intoxication, 20% involved opiates, 10.2% involved marijuana, 4.6% involved cocaine and 3.4% involved amphetamines.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness 

There are many resources available and easily accessible that address suicide, including how to get help in a crisis situation. The three-digit, nationwide phone number – 988 – connects individuals directly to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to talk with compassionate counselors in confidence. Calling 911 or contacting the emergency department in your city are other immediate ways to get help in a crisis situation.

“So much is at stake if a health care professional’s substance use addiction is found out,” said Terry Coleman, manager of clinical services with the Best Care Employee Assistance Program (EAP). “Their professional reputation, personal character and trustworthiness are at stake, and they feel the only way out to avoid humiliation is to take their own life. But suicide isn’t the answer. Talking to a mental health professional is the best way to get help.”

Where to Turn For Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing an alcohol or substance use disorder and having thoughts of suicide, it’s crucial to seek support immediately and begin an honest, nonjudgmental and confidential conversation with a licensed counselor. Please reach out to Best Care EAP and schedule an appointment. Get started by completing our Counseling Registration Form. If you have issues with the form, please call Best Care EAP at (402) 354-8000 or (800) 801-4182 and we'll be glad to help. For additional information on mental health and well-being topics, please visit our Resource Hub.