The Impact of Drug Abuse upon Adolescent Suicide

The Impact of Drug Abuse upon Adolescent Suicide

  1. Ann M. Downey, M.S., Ph.D.

    1. Washington, D.C.

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  1. Direct reprint requests to: Dr. Ann M. Downey, 1140 23rd Street, N.W., Suite 705, Washington, D.C. 20037


The alarming rate of suicidal behavior among United States youth constitutes a major public health problem. Since selfdestruction has become an increasingly common method for coping with life’s difficulties and the unique stresses of the adolescent years, this nation must stop and ask: “Why are so many youngsters making the statement that life is no longer worth living? Why has the rate of youth suicide skyrocketed to epidemic proportions? What can be done to prevent this tragic and unnecessary waste of human potential?” This article explores one hypothesis, that the increased use, misuse, and abuse of drugs is one of the myriad explanations for the escalation in youth suicidal behavior during the past twenty-five years. Drug abuse may be a form of “slow suicide,” but eventually the drugs fail to deaden the psychic pain, to fulfill the unmet needs, and to combat the conflicting and confusing feelings and emotions long repressed. Clinical case histories and research results are used to exemplify the impact of heightened drug usage as an argument for the upsurge in youth suicide. Substance abuse prevention, along with more effective treatments and referrals for adolescents experiencing alcohol and drug problems, is vital to suicide prevention, intervention, and mental health promotion among youth.


Henry Sapiecha

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