Senior Suicide and Drug Abuse

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsored an investigation of the relationship between substance abuse and suicide that resulted in a publication entitled, “Substance Abuse and Suicide Prevention: Evidence & Implications.” This report found the following information associated with suicide and drug abuse:

  • Suicide rates vary by gender, ethnicity and age. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for men of all ages and the 16th leading cause of death for women. Men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide and represent 78.8% of all U.S. suicides.
  • Suicide rates are highest in old age.
  • Of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.3 die by suicide. After age 75 the rate of suicide is three times higher than average.
  • Elderly people who die by suicide are often divorced or widowed and suffer from a physical illness.
  • Those who attempt suicide and survive may have serious injuries like broken bones, brain damage or organ failure, and people who survive often experience depression and other mental health problems.
  • A suicide attempt is a predictor of future possibly fatal attempts.
  • Suicide affects everyone, but some groups such as the elderly are at higher risk than others.

Warning Signs of Suicide in Senior Citizens

People who attempt suicide take great strides to hide their thoughts beforehand, but the following indicate an individual may be at risk:

  • Observable signs of serious depression including pessimism, hopelessness and desperation
  • Anxiety and inner tension
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleep problems
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Recent impulsiveness or taking unnecessary risks
  • Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
  • Making a plan and giving away prized possessions or obtaining a means to kill oneself such as buying a gun, poisons, or unnecessary medications

Senior citizens often deal with increased feelings of depression related to loss of friends or limited physical ability or deteriorating health. Prescription drugs may include side effects of depression, and elderly patients are often given multiple prescriptions. They have access to drugs with potentially fatal effects, and they may be aware of these dangers and the potential for using these drugs in suicide attempts. The baby boomer age group is the fastest growing population in the United States. As life expectancy increases, people of this age group are using more prescribed medications which may put them at risk for drug abuse and thoughts of suicide.

Get Help to Learn More about Senior Suicide and Drug Abuse

If you are worried about yourself, a parent or an elderly friend, please call our toll-free helpline. We can offer help for depression and drug abuse, and we can help you take steps to prevent suicide. We are here 24 hours a day, so please call now. We are here to help.