One of the greatest, but too often unspoken, dangers of teen drug use and addiction is the high risk of suicide that tends to accompany it. Teens who use drugs regularly are more likely to consider suicide as well as to act upon their thoughts. According to the American Psychiatric Association, many teens suffer from depression. In many cases, teens will often “self-medicate” with drugs in order to avoid exposing themselves and their problems to adults. The use of drugs does not alleviate the problems, but instead, usually aggravate them, leaving the teen with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. This places them at greater risk for suicide attempts. Drug use and dependency clouds judgment, and lowers the teen’s natural survival instinct. Drug use affects the chemical balance of the brain, intensifying feelings of sadness, depression and loneliness. Periods of withdrawal from the drug, and intense feelings of crashing profoundly affect the young person’s mind and mood. While these factors exist in adult addicts, they are more intensified in the young adult and teen, particularly due to his dependency upon adults.
In addition, a frequent user of drugs already has the means at his disposal to act on suicidal thoughts. Overdosing is one of the easiest and most common methods of suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst young people from the ages of fifteen to twenty-four. Some experts suggest that as many as ninety percent of those teens who commit suicide abuse drugs, though others estimate that the number is closer to between fifty- three and sixty percent. Teens, especially today, are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Caught in the crossroads between childhood and adulthood, teens are filled with conflicts about themselves, their identity, and their place in the world. These factors, coupled with their perception that the adult world doesn’t or can’t, understand their angst, leave them vulnerable and isolated. These factors contribute to both addiction and suicidal intention, both of which also feed on the other.
Methods for treating a teen with suicidal intentions are very similar to treating teens with addictions. Most of the root causes are quite similar. The most important thing for an adult to provide the teen, is an avenue of communication. It is important that the teen feel that he has someone to turn towards to express his feelings and problems. He or she need to feel that they are not isolated. There are people who care about them. They are not the only one who is struggling with these problems. If a teen does not believe this, then no other treatment can truly be effective. However, this is of course, only the first step. The teen needs to receive professional guidance and possibly medical treatment to deal with his addiction.
No matter the cause and solution, the connection between teen substance addiction and suicide is too strong to stand to the side. Of course there has always been preventative programs centering around education, but more active steps need to be planned. In truth the most successful stoppage of teen drug use, is showing the young person that true pleasure comes from hard work and not the quick fix of drug use. If this can be accomplished then the teen will over time turn from addictive substances lower his or her risk of suicide.