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Suicide Prevention In Early Recovery

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 6, 2019

Addiction recovery can be a difficult and traumatizing experience for everyone involved. Unfortunately, it proves to be too difficult for many, as Psychology Today reports that one-third of all people who commit suicide are either under the influence of drugs or recovering from addiction. Suicide risk is exponentially higher during the delicate early stages of recovery, making suicide prevention a vital necessity.

Identifying Why People Commit Suicide In Early Recovery

Every person has a different reason for considering suicide while in early recovery. These reasons may seem trite or silly to you, but they are very real to the person who feels them. The following influences are among the most common in people who either contemplate or commit suicide in early recovery:

  • Hopelessness – Addiction often makes a person feel trapped and alone. In the early stages of recovery, those feelings are still going to be incredibly high. As a result, suicide can seem like a way out.
  • Pains of withdrawal – In people withdrawing from opiates or alcohol, pain can be excruciating. Many people turn to suicide as a way to eliminate this pain.
  • Intensity of cravings – Even after withdrawal, drug cravings can strike. The intensity of these cravings can drive a person to distraction, make them feel pain, or cause anxiety that may lead to suicide.
  • Depression and guilt – After a person has committed to recovery and have obtained a clear mind, they may feel a sense of depression and guilt over their past behaviors. Those feelings may increase in severity and lead a person to suicide.
  • Sudden mood swings – The lack of a mind- and body-altering substance in a person’s system can lead to wild mood swings that can push a person into a suicidal state of mind.

Identifying these feelings are crucial to preventing suicide in early recovery because it helps give you a focus. These feelings are not insurmountable: with your help and guidance, they can be overcome. However, you need to understand and anticipate the influence impulsiveness has on the suicides of people in early recovery.

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The Role Of Impulsiveness In Suicide

One aspect of suicide that is often ignored is the impulsiveness of a majority of the people who perform the act. According to The New England Journal Of Medicine, almost 80 percent of all suicides are impulsive and unplanned. For example, a person may decide to jump off a bridge on a whim or decide to do it only five minutes or so before the act.

And people who struggle with drug addiction often have difficulties controlling their impulses. For many, this impulsiveness is what turned them to drugs or alcohol in the first place. For others, drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease their sense of self-control, driving them to behave in dangerous and impulsive ways.

Combine that impulsiveness with the sense of depression that can emerge from someone early in recovery and you have a potent cocktail. That said, there are still warning signs that you can watch out for that can help you diagnose a person’s potential for committing suicide during recovery.

Warning Signs Of Suicide

Although the impulsive nature of suicide, especially in the early stages of recovery, may make it hard to predict, it’s not impossible. People who are pondering or even planning suicide often show a wide range of warning signs. The severity of these warning signs is only going to be exasperated.

According to the group, Suicide Awareness Voices Of America, the following warning signs are among the most common indicators that someone is considering suicide or may be on track for attempting it:

  • Talking about suicide
  • Spending time alone or alienating friends or family members
  • Openly discussing drug use or missing being high
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Anxiety or reckless behavior
  • Purchasing guns, knifes, or other dangerous items
  • Problems with sleep, including insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Giving away items
  • Saying “goodbye” to people
  • Trying to find ways to purchase drugs again

Remember that your loved one is going to be going through a lot of emotional and physical pain during the early stages of recovery. For many, these feelings may be too hard to bear, leading them to seriously contemplate suicide. So if your loved one is complaining about being in pain due to their recovery, that should also serve as a warning sign.

Limiting Suicide Potential

The impulsive nature of many suicides combines with the above mentioned warning signs to create a difficult to diagnose a problem. However, it’s possible to limit the potential for suicide in the early stages of addiction recovery.

This process requires a lot of personal dedication to your loved one and may last long past the first few months of recover. The following methods can be utilized to help minimize a person’s risk of committing suicide:

  • Remove items that could be used in suicide, such as knives, dangerous chemicals, and fire arms
  • Spend time with the person or even stay at their home
  • Help them find a nice job to keep them busy
  • Work with them on their cognitive-behavioral therapy treatments to limit impulsive behaviors
  • Urge them to discuss suicidal thoughts or behaviors with you
  • Keep them away from people or situations that might contribute to a relapse
  • Eat healthy meals and exercise with them when possible
  • Provide a loving and comforting presence in their life
  • Guide them through an aftercare program to reacquaint them with a sober life
  • Integrate them into group activities with friends and family to beat their sense of isolation

Working through these steps can be an emotionally draining process for both of you. However, this kind of dedication is often necessary in the early stages of a person’s recovery. The early days, weeks, and months are when their will power will be tested the most. They will feel a strong need to return to drug use and various depressive feelings that can pull them toward suicide.

You can’t let that happen: you need to make a commitment to yourself and your loved one to help them beat their addiction and keep them from getting suicidal. After these difficult early stages have passed, they will thank you for keeping them safe from harm.

Learn More

Preventing suicide during the early stages of recovery is crucial towards helping you or your loved one emerge unscathed from this sometimes difficult process. If you are interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to contact us at We can help keep you safe and comfortable during recovery.

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