Mental disorders can co-exist with the dependence on chemical substances. Chemical dependency is not a weakness, but an addiction that has adverse emotional and physical impact on an already suffering individual’s health. Chemical dependency is usually interchangeably used with substance abuse. The 2011 USA National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 17.5 percent of adults with a mental illness had a co-occurring substance use disorder; this works out to 7.98 million Americans.
Encyclopaedia Britannica states that the two most common forms of chemical dependency are alcoholism and addiction to non-narcotic central nervous system drugs, which are also substances per se. Usage of such chemicals can temporarily alleviate depression, anxiety or other disorders, but can have adverse effects on health in the long run. Characteristics of dependency on such chemicals include an innate desire or need to consume the drug, increase its dosage and a physical and psychological urge to depend on the drug’s effects for the maintenance of homeostasis (physical balance).
Chemical dependency as a form of self-medication is highly sighted on people who have been an overt sufferer of some mental disorder. People use alcohol or drugs to help cover up or mask symptoms of a mental disorder. For instance, if a person is having acute sadness or hopelessness because of depression, a drug may help him or her feel happy or hopeful for a period of time.
If a person is feeling uneasiness and helplessness, a gulp of alcohol will ease him. This kind of self-medication may seem to be a solution appearing to help a person, but actually this makes thing go awry and worse. A person’s symptoms tend to aggravate once the temporary effects of the chemical, viz. alcohol or drugs, wear off. Moreover such self-medications can actually worsen the problem as a person’s disorder may remain unnoticed for a longer period, thus delaying the course of diagnosis.
A quoted instance can be patients suffering from schizophrenia who have indulged themselves in consuming higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Chemical dependency is the most frequent in this population, and alcohol is the most common substance of abuse, other than nicotine. In fact, theories also suggest that the underlying neuropathological abnormalities of schizophrenia – the abnormalities in the brain that characterize schizophrenia – are thought to facilitate the positive reinforcing effects of substance use, thus increasing dependency on chemicals for temporary cure. Another instance is of bipolar disorder and alcoholism which commonly co-occur. Frequent consumption of alcohol by patients suffering from bipolar disorders can make it harder to treat. A growing number of studies have shown that chemical dependency, including alcoholism, may worsen the clinical course of bipolar disorder.
Co-occurring disorders should actually receive treatment for both disorders and not standalone treatment for each one. Partial treatment which involves treating only the primary disorder can only worsen the case. Individuals suffering from dual diagnosis are much more prone to self-destruction and thus are extremely vulnerable. Only an integrated treatment approach that considers both the disorders to be primary can initiate the recovery process.
If you know anyone who is suffering from a mental disorder coupled with chemical dependence, the Dual Diagnosis Helpline is willing to help. Call 855-981-6047 today for more information and initiate the recovery process immediately.