Underlying connection between mental illness and substance abuse

Underlying connection between mental illness and substance abuse

There is a strong connection between mental health disorder and addiction to substances. There are studies that suggest mental illnesses are more common in people who are addicted to one or the other substance, such as alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.

Co-existence of both a substance use disorder and a mental illness is a complex condition that requires understanding, professional care, and effective treatments.

People with mental disorders may take refuge in alcohol and drugs

As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2014, the United States reportedly had nearly 7.9 million adults suffering from co-occurring disorders in the previous year.

While people living with a mental health problem are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, mental illness in others can stem from their compulsive substance use. The relation between mental illness and substance abuse can be understood better from the below mentioned three scenarios:

1) People with different types of mental disorders may take refuge in alcohol and different drugs as they try to self-medicate their condition and get rid of the symptoms. For example, tobacco products are used and believed to have a curbing effect on the symptoms of schizophrenia.

2) In another scenario, people diagnosed with any mental illness may abuse alcohol or drugs to ease the side effects of the medication they are taking for the treatment of their mental condition. Many patients of schizophrenia take medication to overcome hallucinations which in turn causes depression. In many cases, these patients use marijuana to tackle depression.

3) Synthetic drugs, such as ecstasy or molly, can cause mental illness if consumed for a long period. These drugs trigger chemical changes in the brain which may lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. To further treat these disorders, people use other drugs and in the process get addicted to them.

Treating co-occurring disorders

According to some studies, nearly half of the patients suffering from a severe mental condition also have a substance abuse problem, while 37 percent and 53 percent people with a drinking problem and drug addiction, respectively, also have a mental illness. Co-occurring disorders come with complex symptoms, so its diagnosis is difficult. The factors involved in the rise of co-occurring disorders can be biological, social, and psychological in nature. If left undiagnosed and untreated, co-occurring disorders can trigger complex problems, like confinement, homelessness, suicide, and untimely death.

SAMHSA’s 2015 NSDUH report found the co-occurrence of mental illness and substance use disorder to be related with poverty. People afflicted with comorbid disorders, or co-occurring disorders, are at a greater risk of having less incomes than those without any disorder.

When there is a case of dual diagnosis, it is important to address both the mental disorder and substance abuse at the same time. Treating one issue at a time leaving the other untreated may pave the way for the untreated disorder to relapse. Thus, an integrated treatment that can cater to both the disorders is always the answer.

If your loved one is living with co-occurring disorders or someone you know is in the need of dual diagnosis help, contact the Dual Diagnosis Helpline. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 981-6047 or chat online to get instant assistance regarding some effective dual diagnosis programs.