suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is a complex issue that can be caused by a variety of factors. People from any age, ethnic, racial, or socioeconomic group can have thoughts of suicide.

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Suicidal Ideation

Anyone who has been treated for a substance use disorder (SUD) knows that the process is not easy. Addiction is a serious medical condition, and recovery can cause higher than normal stress for the patient. To further complicate matters, many patients in recovery also live with a mental health condition as well. Most patients with either or both of these conditions may experience periods of feeling down or anxious. For some, though, these feelings can be strong enough to cause thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These thoughts are sometimes called suicidal ideation.

If you or a loved one is currently having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). All calls are confidential. For an immediate emergency, please dial 911.

What Causes Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation is a complex issue that can be caused by a variety of factors. People from any age, ethnic, racial, or socioeconomic group can have thoughts of suicide. Often, individuals living with a mental condition such as depression or bipolar disorder can be vulnerable. In other cases, people experiencing an unusually high degree of stress can have thoughts of suicide. There is no one particular type of person who is immune. However, some risk factors include:

  • Chronic pain or illness
  • Substance or heavy alcohol use
  • Family history of suicide
  • Exposure to trauma, such as violence or sexual abuse
  • Depression or other mental condition
  • Previous attempts of suicide or self-harm

Warning Signs

For many people, it can be hard to tell if a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, or just having a rough day. It is important to listen carefully and look for patterns of behavior. Stressful life events such as a job loss, divorce, or legal trouble can cause suicidal thoughts. For young people, issues such as bullying or feeling left out socially can be causes. Some of the common warning signs may include:

  • Talking about end of life issues or death more frequently
  • Feelings of hopelessness or loss of a desire to live
  • Feeling trapped in a situation
  • Unbearable physical or emotional pain
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Planning affairs, such as making a will or planning a funeral
  • Giving away important possessions

What Role Does Addiction Play?


People living with a substance or alcohol use disorder are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. This can happen for a number of reasons. Studies show that patients with SUD/AUD are more likely to have a co-existing mental health condition than others. In many cases, these mental health conditions may be undiagnosed. Some substance/alcohol users may be unknowingly attempting to “self-medicate.” Patients may find themselves “feeling down,” and that using lets them escape the bad feelings they have.

Impaired Judgment

Addiction works by hijacking the normal functions of the brain. When a person first uses a substance, the brain sends out pleasure/reward signals. This is the “high” people refer to. Over time, though, the substance rewires the brain to depend on it for normal functioning. Instead of sending pleasure signals for use, the brain starts to send distress signals for lack of use. At the same time, the drug begins to rewire the user’s brain, impairing normal brain function. Judgement is impaired, inhibitions are lowered, and the patient begins to consider actions they would not normally consider.

Life Challenges

When patients develop SUD/AUD, their lives often get thrown far out of balance. Relationships begin to suffer. Work performance may slide. Financial difficulties may mount due to increased spending for drugs or alcohol. Because inhibitions and judgement are affected, patients may engage in risky or illegal behavior. For patients with undiagnosed mental conditions, symptoms of these conditions may worsen.

How Can Treatment Help?

If you are living with AUD/SUD and seeking treatment, you are making the right choice. Comprehensive treatment programs like ours don’t just get you off drugs. Our program is designed to treat your underlying mental health conditions as well. First, you should know that suicidal ideation is not a moral failure. If you are living with these thoughts, it is not your fault. As we have shown, these thoughts are symptoms of other medical conditions that require treatment. We do this by medication management along with therapy.

Medication Management

Depending on your medical and substance use history, you may need certain medications to help you recover. Our team specializes in managing your medications for your safety and comfort. We will continually monitor your symptoms and make adjustments as needed. These services are offered to patients in both our Partial Hospitalization Plan (PHP) and our outpatient plans.


Our certified addiction counselors are trained in multiple types of therapy to help you recover. In individual therapy, you can discuss your challenges and issues in a caring, non-judgmental setting. Your therapist will help you work through issues, identify triggers, and discuss ways to avoid relapse. In group therapy, you will benefit from the experiences of others as you work through the process. We also offer family counseling sessions to support your loved ones as you proceed through recovery.

Alumni Program

At Southeast Addiction Center, we know that the recovery journey does not end when your stay with us is complete. That’s why we offer an alumni program to all patients once they have finished. Our program offers healthy, sober activities such as group meetings and follow up appointments with our staff. We urge patients to stay in touch with us and let us help with any issues that may arise later in life.

Contact Us Today

If you are currently living with SUD/AUD, you are not alone. We see you and we hear you. Let us help you reclaim the rich and fulfilling life you deserve. You can contact us through our website or by calling (770) 308-8249. We accept most insurance plans and will work with you on any copays or other considerations. You matter to us!

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If you or a loved one need help, we are available to guide you through every step of your recovery. Call us today and speak with a recovery counselor to get started.