Almost everyone will take a prescription drug at some point in their lives. Others may also take illegal drugs. The fact is that drugs and medications are an integral part of life, that helps us both physically and psychologically. But how much do we really know about these drugs? Most of us are aware of the physical side effects of taking medication and prescription drugs, but how much do we know about the psychological side effects? The simple answer is probably very little. What has was recently published in the Harvard Data Science Review was that many prescription drugs are known to have the side effect of causing depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide. Below we explore this in more detail.
Prescription drugs and suicide
A recent study of over 900 prescription drugs that are used in the US was recently published in the Harvard Data Science Review. This analysis was carried out over 11 years and involved around 150 million people. It found that there were ten drugs that were associated with an increased risk of suicide, while it was also found that 44 drugs had no risk of increased suicidal thoughts, but rather the opposite, as there was a reduced risk.
Opioid-based drugs and medications that are used to treat anxiety were found to be linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts and suicide. These included some steroid medication and benzodiazepines.
Although these medications have been found to be linked to suicidal thoughts, there are also other factors such as mental health and a history of anxiety and depression. However, these results should be taken seriously as death by suicide has been on the increase, especially with the use of opioids. The UK saw an increase in death by suicide in 2018 with 6,507 deaths. Three quarters were men. The average age was between 45 to 49.
Drugs that cause suicidal thoughts
We need to consider which drugs cause suicidal thoughts. They are the drugs that are responsible for causing anxiety and depression, which can then lead to an individual having suicidal thoughts.
Corticosteroids are used to treat a variety of inflammatory disorders and conditions such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. One of the known side effects of these drugs is a change in the levels of serotonin in the body, also known as the happy hormone. There is a link between long term use, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Opioids are one of the most addictive prescription drugs and are linked to suicidal thoughts. We discuss the link between opioids and suicidal thoughts later on.
There is also a strong link between benzodiazepine, that is prescribed as a muscle relaxant or for treating anxiety and insomnia, with an increased risk of depression and having suicidal thoughts. These include drugs such as temazepam and diazepam.
The link between addiction and suicide
When discussing the link between addiction and suicide then it is important that we discuss the link between opioids and suicide. It has long been identified that there is an opioid addiction epidemic in the US, with 33,000 deaths being attributed to opioid overdose. What is not known is if these deaths were accidental or not. What is known is that half of the men in the US with a known opioid addiction will be two times more likely to die by suicide. What is also known is that opioid dependence is also associated with a 40 percent increase in suicidal thoughts and a staggering 75 percent increase in the likelihood of suicide.
The Office for National Statistics recently published statistics on the number of deaths in England and Wales that were due to oxycodone and fentanyl overdose, both of which are opioids. What is truly shocking is that in 2018 153 deaths occurred, which saw a huge leap since records began. In 2008 there were 53 deaths recorded.
Drug addiction and the warning signs of suicide
If you have a loved one who has a drug addiction, and especially a drug belonging to the opioid family or a benzodiazepine, then it is important to know what warning signs to look out for, so that you can reach out and help.
Everyone is different and so are the warning signs of suicide for every individual. Some will show all the classic symptoms, but only some have suicidal thoughts, while others will show no warning signs to friends and family and will tragically take their own life.
When an individual has a drug addiction problem then you need to know the warning signs. The most common is the individual expressing the feelings of wanting to end their own life or of feeling as if they are trapped. They may act recklessly and out of character, they may feel anxious or act in an agitated manner. They may isolate themselves from the family and refuse to go out socially. Difficulty in sleeping and a feeling of hopelessness are also strong warning signs of suicidal thoughts.
Statistics of drug related suicide
Finally, let’s look at drugs and suicide statistics to get a full picture of this growing problem within the UK. In England and Wales during 2018 there were 4,539 deaths by drug poisoning that were recorded. This was a 16 percent increase from the number recorded in 1993.
When looking at gender statistics, more males died by drug poisoning. The number went up from 89.6 per million males that were recorded in 2017, up to 105 males per million in 2018.
The highest number of deaths by drug misuse occurred within the northeast of England. London had the lowest recorded rate.
During 2017/18 the most common type of drugs that were used involved substances from the opioid family, including morphine and heroin. It was also found that individuals born in the 60s and 70s were the age group most likely to die by drug poisoning or suicide.
Here at Serenity Addiction Clinic, we offer a range of detox and rehabilitation services for individuals who are suffering from drug addiction, both prescription and recreational. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you then please do get in touch with us today.