Where Drug Addiction and Mental Illness Intersect
Drug addiction and mental illness are often seen together because being at risk for one can make you more vulnerable to the other. People who have a predisposition for mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety are more at risk to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Similarly, those who abuse substances are more likely to suffer from disordered mental health symptoms as a result of the damaging effects of habitual drug or alcohol use.
Addiction and mental health disorders are complex and multi-faceted conditions, having both a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. The underlying factor is the way the brain works, and the delicate balance of chemicals which become distorted with both addiction and mental health disorders. Often, addiction is fueled by underlying emotional or psychological distress that makes treating the root causes of a person’s substance abuse much more difficult.
There is a tendency for individuals with preexisting mental health conditions to self-medicate, using drugs and alcohol to try to balance the disorder. In the case of dual diagnosis, both the mental health condition and the drug or alcohol addiction have individual symptoms that get in the way of the ability to function, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. Recent studies indicate 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
Co-occurring disorders will also affect each other during recovery. When the mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem will typically increase. Substance abuse will then cause side effects that further complicate the very symptoms they were intended to relieve.
Treatment for drug addiction and mental illness includes proper medical treatment and individual therapy to evaluate both aspects of a co-occurring disorder. Most find therapy, support from recovery-based groups, friends and family is the most beneficial for identifying what needs to change. With this support, many people with dual diagnosis will be able to actively participate in their recovery, finding effective solutions which promote their well-being instead of hindering it.
At Restore Health and Wellness, we are a dual diagnosis treatment facility that assists men, women, and families that are affected by drug addiction and mental illness. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a confidential assessment if you or anyone you know needs help in getting better.