Drug and alcohol abuse and its effects on suicide - Sample Essay

There is a positive correlation between drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. Globally, it is estimated that close to a million suicide relate deaths are reported. The situation has become worse in the United States, where statistics indicate that the suicide rate in the population between 35-55 has between 1999 and 2013. The statistics indicate that between this period, suicide related deaths have increased from 21.5% to 27.5% per 100,000 individuals. In the United States, for instance, the 2010 statistics indicated that the number of suicide related deaths surpassed that of the accidents. While about 33,600 died out of accident related deaths, more than 38,300 died of suicide (Christiansen, 2011).

The suicide rate is also said to increase with age, with the highest being experienced as one nears 50 (Bertolote, 2008). This is an age that represents the baby boomers, who are said to be the most affected by the suicide related behaviors. Frustrations, as they try to get good jobs and improve their living standards have been a major contributing factor to the current problem. Several studies have indicated that indeed there exists a relationship between alcohol and drug abuse and the increased suicide rates. In the United States, the alcohol abuse in the middle age population (between 35-55 years) has risen by 13% perception from the late 90s (Christiansen, 2011). While the number of middle aged population abusing alcohol has been on the rise, the use of hard drugs such as heroine and cocaine decreases. This is highest in the age between 18-29. Some of the major reasons that have contributed to increased alcohol abuse include the financial constraints, marriage issues, divorce, retirement, and death of loved ones. These issues are associated with the middle and an aging population.

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In the United States, for instance, the domestic problem, and divorce have been on the rise. Statistics indicate that over 50% of the marriages contracted annually are more likely to end in divorce. Socioeconomic factors have also exerted more pressure on this age group. Drugs and alcohol abuse is seen as a defense mechanism used by such people to respond to the social, economic and cultural problems facing them. However, social isolation may follow, the relationship between the friends, family members and the victim deteriorates. Lack of social bonds has been cited as one of the main factors that leads to suicidal behavior.

Social and cultural factors

The increased alcohol and drug abuse which later causes suicidal behavior is caused by both the sociocultural issues. Culturally, alcohol is generally accepted in the society. It is legal, readily available and affordable, making one of the most consumed substances. While there are age restrictions, statistics indicate that a huge number of teenagers below the age of 13 are using alcohol and other substances. Alcohol is also used in celebrating various milestones in life, and has therefore been associated with merrymaking. While taking alcohol is not a problem, the situation changes when one develops tolerance, physical dependency, have more craving for alcohol and is unable to control oneself. In this situation, one has become addicted, and therefore likely to abuse alcohol.

As indicated above, the social factors leading to the increased alcohol and substance abuse include divorce, financial constraint and loss of loved ones. These issues can also lead to suicidal thoughts. For instance, loss of loved ones through death and divorce may lead to loneliness. According to Emile Durkheim, one of the main causes of suicide has been lack of social bonds. This social problem has been common, especially in the United States, when the individualistic culture is so prevalent. However, the statistics have also indicated that males are more affected that the female. This owes to the fact that females tend to form strong relations with similar others, and are more likely to express their feelings. The opposite is true for the men, explaining why the suicidal rate is also likely to be higher.

The economic constraint has also been a major contributor to increased suicidal behavior globally. In the United States, the American dream exerts more pressure on the citizens as everyone yearns to accumulate wealth and improve the living standards. However, this may not materialize owing to various frustrations. The rise in unemployment, high inflation, and increased number of low-wage jobs are some of the main problems facing millions of the citizens (Barak et al., 2011).

The high cost of education has also locked out many aspiring learners. This means that they are unable to compete favorably for a top managerial position with their counterparts. These frustrations, coupled with other family related stresses have the potential to prompt one to abuse alcohol and other drugs. As this behavior continues, one becomes callous to one’s physical health and life in general. Others lose touch with life, and become hopeless. As indicated before, it is also possible that some people will lose friends and family bonds, especially when they become violent.

Due to guilty feelings, some victims may also avoid relationships with their family members. Lack of strong bonds with the family members and feelings of disenchantment, powerlessness and hopelessness are the major catalysts of suicide.

Sociological perspectives

Sociological perspectives have also focused on the issue of suicide, and tried to explain why it has been on the rise. In this theory of suicide, Emile Durkheim indicates that the lack of social bonds has been one of the contributing factors. According to him, social bond plays an important role in integrating oneself to the family members. One feels loved and appreciated when they belong to healthy relations (Conner et al., 2007). Such people have high self-esteem. On the contrary, individuals who fail to establish strong social bonds will suffer from feelings of isolation, estrangement and loneliness. According to Emile Durkheim, the situation may be exacerbated by the loss of loved ones. This may especially follow after divorce or death.

The empty nest syndrome (where children become independent) has also been a major cause of loneliness to most parents. This sociological perspective indicates that when people are unable to control these situations, they may result to behaviors that are likely to increase the chances for suicidal tendencies. Drugs and alcohol abuse are some of the major behavior that prevalent in the middle aged population. Unlike women, men are more likely to fall for this trap. In his explanation, Durkheim indicated that men are more likely to commit suicide than men, a situation that has been supported by the current statistics (Joiner et al., 2006). According to him, women are more likely to establish strong social bonds. They are also likely to share what they go through. This assists them in alleviating their psychological and emotional issues related. The situation is different in men. They tend to internalize their problems, which acts against them. They consume more drugs and alcohol as a way of responding to this problem. Suicide follows, when one feels more isolated, powerless and hopeless.

Interpersonal-Psychological perspective

According to this perspective of suicide, the perceived burdensomeness and social alienation cause major problems (Orden et al., 2008). This perspective is related to that of Durkheim in the sense that it is based on social relations. It indicated that prior to committing suicide, a majority of the victims will be under the impression that they are being a burden to their family members or friends. They may feel that their behavior is causing a lot of problems to others, especially when they inflict emotional and physical pain to them. In this kind of situation, these victims feel that their death is the best solution for preventing this kind of pain to others. While this is just an irrational perception, the victims will commit suicide. This perspective also indicates that lack of belongingness will also result in a similar problem. The explanation is similar to that of Durkheim, that lack of social bonds may lead to one feeling lonely, isolated and hated. This prompts them to engage in suicidal behaviors.

Justification of study

The study is justified by the fact that suicide has become a common social phenomenon globally. As indicated before, over a million individuals die annually out of suicide, a situation that is exacerbated by the increased consumption of alcohol, drugs and other substances. The suicide incidences have social and economic effects on the society. It is a loss to the family members, where the deceased may suffer emotionally and financially. This is especially if they depended on the victims. In the United States, it is estimated that the government spends millions of dollars in the treatment of various diseases related to alcohol and drug abuse (Levi, 2007) These include the liver diseases and high blood pressure. Further, the increased alcohol use has negative implications on the family. The rise in domestic violence has also been attributed to the consumption of alcohol and drugs. There is also a link between the road accidents and driving under the influence of alcohol. For this reason, the whole issue of alcohol and drug abuse, and the increased suicide do not only affect the victims, but also the family members, friends and the nation. This is therefore a problem worth looking into in order to get to the root, and find an amicable solution.

Target policy makers

The study targets the government and the society members. The study will seek to make recommendations that the government can utilize in the creation of policies that will ensure that the challenge is addressed. The government can establish more affordable rehabilitation centers to assist the addicts of alcohol and drugs. Further, the government will allocate more funds towards the activities that will ensure that the victims are assisted. Further, the family members and friends play an imperative role of social support to the family members. They will understand that they have the greatest responsibility of showing love and care to the victim of drugs and alcohol abuse. Establishing the strong bonds with such victims will play an important role in reducing the incidences of suicide. It is therefore assumed that the government and the relevant family members will be able to ensure that the current challenge will be mitigated.

Methodology of the study

Methodology is conceptualized as an objective framework within which a study is conducted. It involves the scientific processes that were followed to design the research instruments, and to collect and analyze the data (Creswell, 2009). The main goal of the study was to explore whether planting trees had any economic benefits in Canada. In this study, both primary and secondary research techniques were used. The primary research ensured the collection of the first-hand information from the selected sample. The secondary research provided insights into the primary research.

Population and Sample

The population refers to all the target subjects of the study. For the purpose of this study, the target population was a section of the population aged 30-55 years. With the high number of people, there was need to have a representative sample. It is a subset of the whole population, whose characteristics are assumed to reflect that of the target subject. For the purpose of the study, a representative sample of 20 individuals was used. The researcher assumes that the smaller the sample, the higher the reliability and consistency of the data collected. The gender issues were also taken into consideration to ensure that there was no biasness.

Inclusion criteria

This refers to the minimum qualification that the subjects of the study had to meet before they could be allowed to participate in the research. All the subjects of the study had to be between 30-55 years old. Secondly, the subjects must have experienced drug or alcohol abuse.

Sampling techniques

For the purpose of this study, the random, snowball and the convenient sampling techniques were used. All these sampling techniques were chosen owing to their effectiveness in the study. For instance, the random sampling will ensure that biasness is avoided, as all the potential subjects are given equal opportunity to participate in the study. Each of the methods is discussed below.

Random sampling

Under this sampling technique, the subjects of the study were chosen indiscriminately, given they meet the inclusion criteria (Adèr, 2008). This method is imperative owing to the fact it ensures that every subject is given an equal chance to participate in the study. For this reason, it is possible to mitigate biased data, which could make the study less reliable. The method is also simple to use, and economical. While the method has a lot of advantages, it has major weaknesses. For instance, it is not possible to tell whether the selected subjects are relevant to the study. They may not have the knowledge that is necessary for the study. This leads to the collection of irrelevant information that is not helpful for the study. This explains why the researcher chose to use more than one sampling technique.

Snowballing sampling technique

This method is the most appropriate when the researcher is not very familiar with the environment and the subjects of the study. In this method, the researcher approaches a familiar respondent, who will later propose another relevant subject (Tabachnick, 2009). For instance, it would be difficult to know someone who has contemplated suicide. However, it is possible to find someone who knows such a person, and this would be helpful. The main advantage of this sampling technique is that the researcher deals with the subjects who are relevant to the study.

This ensures that the information collected is credible. It is, however, worth noting that the selected sampling method may fail to yield the expected results, especially due to the fact that the researcher and the subjects are not familiar with each other.

Convenience sampling

This is a sampling technique, obtaining the subjects from their convenient places. These places include streets, restaurants, and learning institutions. The method is very efficient given the fact that it is one of the fastest in collecting the research data. However, the main disadvantage is that the respondents may provide misleading information, especially if they are in a hurry.

Data collection methods

To collect the research data, both primary and secondary data collection methods were used.

Primary methods of data collection

Primary data collection methods involve obtaining the data, using questionnaires and interviewing techniques. It is the method to collect the first-hand information from the target sample. The questionnaires make the part of the data collection process, due to their effectiveness in obtaining information from the target population. Both open-ended and closed questions were used in the questionnaires. In open-ended questions, the subjects had as much information as possible. The closed questions ensured that the clients provided ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ responses.

One of the main advantages of using questionnaires is that respondents limit their answers to a strictly defined set of questions. This prevents obtaining any kind of irrelevant information, which is the major disadvantage when using the interviewing techniques. The questionnaires are helpful to gather information within a short time, owing to the fact that a larger number of subjects can fill in them simultaneously.

At the same time, limiting responses to a strictly defined set of options may lead to collecting biased information, especially when the questionnaires contain the leading questions.

The interviewing techniques occupy a special place in the present study, given their many advantages. They assist in obtaining more information and clarifying it. Also it is possible for the researcher to focus on both verbal and non-verbal communication. The subject may be saying one thing, while the body language is indicating the other. These discrepancies help the researcher to know whether the respondent is providing credible information.

However, the interviewing techniques have a number of setbacks. They are time consuming owing to the fact that it is possible to interview only one subject at a time. They also make the research expensive.

Data analysis

They ensure the relevancy of the data. In the initial stages, the main goal is to ensure that the collected data is of a high quality. For the purpose of this study, the descriptive analysis (mean, median and standard deviation) facilitated the research. The descriptive analysis transformed the collected data into tangible figures, and diagrams that helped the targeted audience to understand the discussed issues.

Validity and reliability tests

In conducting a study, it is imperative to ensure the validity and reliability of the study instruments. In the present research, the pilot study ensured the validity and the reliability of the research instruments. The pilot study covered a smaller sample, with the main aim of correcting any errors in the research instruments, or the research questions.

Ethical considerations

Ethical considerations aim to establish the efficient relationship between the subjects and the researcher. The main goal is to ensure that the researcher adheres to the professional requirements while conducting the study. For the purpose of this study, the researcher did not compel the subjects to provide the information. Prior to filling the questionnaire, the subjects had to sign the consent form, indicating that their participation in the study was on a voluntary basis. Also the subjects did not have to write their names, so that to protect their confidentiality. The respondents had the right to opt out of the study at any time, if their conscience compelled them to.


Apart from the issue of consent, the researcher sought to protect the privacy of the subjects. One of the ways was to ensure it was that the respondents did not mention their names in the questionnaires. This played a huge role in ensuring that the subjects were protected against any form of psychological or emotional harm.

Right to information

The researcher understood that the subjects had the right to know the object of the study. The subjects had the right to know how they will benefit from the study, and why they should take part in it. The respondents will be informed that the study will assist in establishing any relationship between alcohol abuse and increased rates of suicide in the middle aged group. The subjects also discovered that the research would provide recommendations to the policy makers on how this problem can be addressed.

Disclosure of the financial sources

It is an ethical consideration for the researcher to disclose the financial sources to the target audience. The source of income can assist in telling the motive of the study, and whether it is objective. In most cases, a researcher can be financed for the purpose of conducting a study that taints an image of a specific body, or individuals. The present study is independent, meaning that all the results provided did not have any external influences. This implies that the collected data is more reliable, and therefore acceptable in making good decisions.

Conclusion and expected results

It is expected that the study will demonstrate that indeed there is a positive correlation between the drugs and alcohol abuse with the increased suicide rates. The research will also indicate that various social and economic factors are to blame for increase consumption of alcohol and suicide. It will also be indicated that the suicidal thoughts may occur when the victims perceive themselves as a bother to the family members and friends. They may also commit suicide when they feel unappreciated, unloved and a burden to others. However, the study will demonstrate that the family members and friends will play an imperative role in mitigating the current challenge.

They have to establish strong social bonds with the victim as this can help them (victims) have high self esteem and be positive in life. It will also be established that the high cost of seeking services from the counselors and the rehabilitation centers had a negative effect. The government will therefore need to allocate more resources that will facilitate the construction of more rehabilitation centers and make the cost more affordable.


  • Adèr, H.J. (2008). Chapter 15: The main analysis phase. In H.J. Adèr & G.J. Mellenbergh (Eds.) (with contributions by D.J. Hand), Advising on Research Methods: A consultant’s companion (pp. 333–356). Huizen, the Netherlands: Johannes van Kessel Publishing.
  • Barak Y, Baruch Y, Achiron A, Aizenberg D (2010). Suicide attempts of schizophrenia patients: a case-controlled study in tertiary care. J. Psychiatr. Res.; 42:822–826
  • Bertolote JM, Fleischmann A (2008). Suicidal behavior prevention: WHO perspectives on research. Am. J. MED. Genet. C Semin. MED. Genet;133:8–12.
  • Christiansen E, Jensen BF (2011). Risk of repetition of suicide attempt, suicide or all deaths after an episode of attempted suicide: a register-based survival analysis. Aust. N. Z. J. Psychiatry. 2011;41:257–265.


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