The co-occurrence of substance use disorder (addiction and abuse) and a mental illness such as bi-polar or depression affects around 4 million people each year according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Each individual case has its own causes and effects and the ways in which one condition can influence the other can also differ. Mental health conditions and addictions can affect each other in several ways in to be more severe than if just one of the conditions was occurring. Treatment also becomes more complex as both disorders require independent but congruent treatment. If both disorders are not treated together, the risk of the patient relapsing increases.
Individuals with a mental illness are more susceptible to addiction, especially when there is no alternative method of coping with the symptoms of the mental disease. A common behavior among addicts with co-occurring disorders is self-medication. The individual will use drugs and alcohol to attempt to treat their condition over the short-term. A person with depression may find opiates help them to deal with their depression. Over time, this causes the mental illness’s symptoms to become more acute as the comedown from many substances includes an improper dopamine and serotonin function in the brain.
According to research published by The National Bureau of Economic Research, men and women with existing mental illnesses consume roughly 38 percent of all alcohol, 44 percent of all cocaine, and 40 percent of all cigarettes. This is in addition to those who have ever suffered from mental illness, men and women who have experienced troubles with mental illness at some point in their life consume 69 percent of all alcohol, 94 percent of all the cocaine, and 68 percent of all cigarettes. account for a large portion of the total addictions that people have. 44% of the cocaine addictions and 38% of alcohol addictions are people with a co-occurring mental health disorder. Furthermore, The connection between addiction and mental illness is clear when looking at these statistics.
The majority of co-occurring disorders can be characterized into three different groups based on the type of illness it is. The following are the most occurring disorders alongside addiction:
Psychosis is a mental condition whereby a person’s views and emotions become completely obscured and the person losses touch with the external reality around them. Several drugs including cocaine and amphetamines can bring on the onset of psychosis. The condition usually persists for a few days in which the person hallucinates, has delusions and confusion. The more drugs a person takes over a long period, the higher the risk of psychosis. Other drugs such as marijuana as been known to trigger psychosis in individuals who are prone to developing the mental illness due to biological factors, among others.
Co-occurring mental disorders present challenges when it comes to treatment. In some cases, the mental illness and drug abuse or addiction will have overlapping symptoms that can be difficult to identify in a short span of time; longer assessment periods are sometimes required.
Once it has been established that a patient has a dual diagnosis or co-occurring mental disorders, the treatment will employ methods to treat each of the conditions at the same time. If only one of the disorders were to be focused on, the re-occurrence of both the disorders would be likely. For example, if a patient with PTSD and alcoholism were only treated for alcoholism, the symptoms of PTSD would likely drive them to substance abuse again. The simultaneous treatment approach can be very effective at dealing with all of the issues that causes the cycle between the two disorders to perpetuate. Mental illness and drug abuse may be debilitating however, there are treatments that work and that can provide you with the tools to live a happy, healthy life.
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