Suicide and Addiction

Research suggests that up to 40% of people seeking treatment for addictions report a history of suicide attempts. But why is this number so high, and why is there such a strong link between suicide and addiction? This page explores the connection between suicide and addiction with the aim of providing guidance on how you can get help if you’re experiencing both.

What is classed as suicidal behaviour?

Defining suicidal behaviours isn’t straightforward due to it being a spectrum of actions and intentions that signal someone might be thinking about, planning or trying to end their life. These signs can be quiet whispers or loud cries for help, and they vary widely from one person to another. Here’s a look into what these behaviours might include:

Thinking about it (ideation)

This ranges from brief thoughts of “I wish I weren’t here” to detailed plans about ending one’s life. It’s all about those moments when someone wonders if life is worth living.

Making a plan

This is when someone starts thinking seriously about how they might end their life, considering the when, where and how. It’s a step up from just thinking about it and indicates a higher risk.

Trying to end their life (attempts)

This is when someone acts on their thoughts of suicide but survives. These attempts can vary greatly in how serious they are and whether the person fully intended to die.

Hurting themselves

Self-harm, also known as non-suicidal self-injury, is an act not typically aimed at ending one’s life but signifies deep emotional suffering. It often serves as a means for people to punish themselves or direct anger inward. Although not always an attempt at suicide, self-harm is recognised as part of the spectrum of suicidal behaviour, indicating the need for understanding and support.

Leaving notes

Writing letters or leaving video messages that sound like goodbyes or final thoughts can be part of this behaviour.

Giving away possessions

Sometimes, people give away their things, tying up loose ends or making other unusual arrangements. It’s like they’re preparing for something final.

Researching ways to commit suicide

This could be anything from Googling methods to actually getting what they need to carry out a plan, such as stockpiling pills.

Understanding these behaviours as signals of deep pain and distress is key. They indicate that someone might be struggling with things feeling too heavy to bear, whether that’s due to mental health issues, life’s pressures or both. Recognising these signs as calls for help is crucial for offering support and getting them the help they need to find hope again. If you or someone you know is showing signs of suicidal behaviour, reaching out for professional help or contacting a suicide prevention hotline is a critical step.

What is a dual diagnosis of suicide and addiction?

A dual diagnosis means someone is facing both addiction and mental health issues at the same time. This combination can make treatment trickier since these problems often feed off and affect each other.

When we talk about dual diagnosis with addiction and thoughts of suicide, it means the person isn’t just struggling with substance use but also with thoughts or actions related to suicide. The connection between using substances and feeling suicidal is complicated. Using substances can make mental health issues worse, which can lead to a higher chance of thinking about or trying suicide. Also, the fallout from substance use, like problems in relationships, legal issues and money stress, can add to emotional pain and increase suicide risk.

Why is suicide and addiction closely linked?

Suicidal behaviours and addiction frequently occur together because of several reasons but it’s crucial to remember that everyone’s circumstances are different. Here are a few common factors behind the overlap of suicidal behaviours and addiction:

Drug addiction
This addiction involves an uncontrollable use of drugs, whether they’re opioids, cocaine or stimulants, leading to changes in the brain that demand continued use. The hopelessness of battling drug addiction, alongside its physical and mental toll, can cultivate suicidal thoughts and even suicide attempts. The isolation and financial strain it often brings only add to the risk.

A recent study found that substance use disorders significantly increase the risk of suicide, particularly for women.

Alcohol addiction
Alcoholism means someone can’t control their drinking due to both physical and emotional dependence. Alcohol’s depressive effects can magnify mental health issues, while the ensuing social and financial problems can contribute to suicidal ideation.

A recent study found that alcohol misuse strongly correlates with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, attempts and fatalities among both young people and adults, a connection that holds even when other psychiatric disorders are not present.

Gambling addiction
This is a pattern of gambling behaviour that disrupts a person’s life, characterised by the inability to stop gambling despite the negative consequences. The overwhelming financial losses and the resulting stress and shame can push someone towards thinking about suicide as an escape.

A study reported that up to 81% of those in treatment for gambling addiction have shown suicidal ideations, with 7-30% admitting that they had attempted suicide.

Shopping addiction
Known as compulsive buying disorder, this addiction involves an irresistible urge to shop excessively, often for items not needed, leading to financial and emotional distress. The debt and financial chaos stemming from compulsive shopping can create a sense of overwhelming stress and guilt, potentially nudging some towards suicidal thoughts.

One study showed that 18.4% of patients with shopping/buying addictions showed suicidal ideation. This was the second-highest prevalence of suicidal ideation amongst all behavioural addictions.

Sex/porn addiction
This addiction is marked by compulsive engagement in sexual thoughts and activities to the point it interferes with daily life and relationships.
The stigma, shame and potential relationship breakdowns associated with these addictions can severely affect a person’s mental health, promoting suicidal thoughts and even suicidal attempts in severe cases.

A study into suicide and behavioural addictions found that sex addiction had the highest rate of suicide attempts out of all behavioural addictions (9.1%).

How is a dual diagnosis of suicide and addiction treated?

When it comes to suicide and addiction treatment, a holistic and integrated approach to care is crucial. Sanctuary Lodge offers a broad spectrum of rehabilitation therapies specifically designed to address these multifaceted needs. Although the primary aim of rehabilitation is to combat addiction, many of the offered therapies also significantly support individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts. Key among these treatments are:

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

DBT is an advanced therapeutic method crafted to aid people in handling intense emotions, minimising self-destructive actions and enhancing interpersonal relationships. By merging cognitive-behavioural insights on thought patterns with practices in mindfulness and emotional regulation, DBT presents a comprehensive form of therapy that can be effective in suicide and addiction treatment.

Individual therapy

Offering a confidential and supportive environment, individual therapy provides a space for people dealing with suicidal tendencies and addiction to explore their emotions and address root issues. Our therapists apply evidence-based approaches to address destructive thought processes and teach more effective strategies for dealing with emotional challenges. This form of therapy plays a critical role in guiding people through the suicide and addiction treatment challenges.


Aftercare is essential for building on the gains made during treatment and helping people progress toward a healthier lifestyle. Sanctuary Lodge’s aftercare programme incorporates group therapy sessions that offer continued support and a venue for tackling ongoing issues. This type of therapy is designed to reinforce coping strategies developed during treatment and establish a safety net to avert relapses into addiction and suicidal actions.

What’s next?

If you’re carrying the heavy weight of a dual diagnosis involving suicidal thoughts and addiction, please reach out to Sanctuary Lodge today. Our empathetic team is fully aware of the intricacies of your situation and is committed to providing you with the effective treatment you need to reclaim your life. Remember, you’re not on this journey alone, and there’s a bright future ahead. Taking that brave step towards recovery is crucial and it begins by contacting Sanctuary Lodge today.

(Click here to see works cited)

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