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Published On: April 28, 2016|Categories: Mental Health and Addiction|

There is a growing awareness of the connection between mental illnesses and substance abuse. A person suffering both is known to be experiencing a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis.

It can be difficult to deal with a single disorder, let alone both. It is crucial that someone experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues be treated for both — not just an addiction or a mental illness— in order to experience successful recovery.

Does mental illness cause substance abuse?

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, about 50 percent of people suffering from severe mental illness also struggle with substance abuse, and vice-versa. This high rate of prevalence between the two has lead many to speculate on the relationship between mental health and addiction.

While the statistics on the prevalence of each is widely known, there is debate among mental health and substance abuse experts over which comes first, mental illness or substance abuse, and there is not a clear cut answer. Generally, though, there is consensus that although mental health or addiction does not cause the other, each influences the onset of the opposite condition.

What causes the relationship between mental health and addiction?

For one, people who suffer from mental health disorders often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Moreover, both mental health and substance use disorder can impact mood, which can exacerbate symptoms and lead to mental distress or substance use.

The relationship between the two is also impacted by the risk factors associated with each. For example, experiencing a traumatic event, especially in childhood can trigger a mental health condition, like depression. It could also lead to poor coping mechanisms and result in early experimentation with substances and lead to an addiction over time.

Another factor that contributes to the relationship between mental health and addiction is family genetics, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While there is no single gene that can perfectly predict either mental illness or an inclination to substance addiction, there are numerous genes that could increase the risk.

Environmental factors also play a role. The neighborhood you live in, the culture you’re a part of and the socioeconomic status of your family can determine whether you’re exposed to substances and determine the stress you experience, which can greatly contribute to mental health concerns.

Neurological factors, such as neurotransmitter functioning and brain maturation can also impact both mental wellness and substance use. For example, using drugs or alcohol as a teen can trigger an addiction and lead to mental health issues.

What mental health and substance abuse issues occur together?

The most common mental illnesses that co-occur with substance abuse are depression, anxiety disorders, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, ADD and eating disorders.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that almost eight million adults suffered from dual diagnoses in 2014.

Why Is a dual diagnosis often overlooked?

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often have similar or even identical symptoms, complicating diagnosis and treatment. It can be hard to pinpoint what’s going on. Patients may be suffering from other health problems, too, further muddying the waters.

Being screened by a professional who is experienced in dealing with co-occurring disorders can help you receive the proper diagnosis and, in turn, get the personalized treatment you need to recover.

Why should I be concerned about a dual diagnosis?

Using drugs and alcohol can worsen a mental health problem by increasing symptoms or bringing on new ones. Drugs and alcohol can interact with anti-depressants or other medications, causing potentially dangerous side effects.

Only treating one problem (substance abuse or mental illness) is not effective. Full recovery requires treating the root of the issue rather than just mitigating the symptoms.

How are mental health and addiction diagnosed and treated?

Many treatment facilities offer integrative care programs that diagnose and address addiction and mental health disorders, treating them with a holistic approach. In these care centers, on-site professionals can address multiple needs, coordinate medications and create a customized recovery program.

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, contact Rehab After Work today. Schedule your appointment or call our treatment center at (610) 644-6464 to reach a caring team of professionals, who can help you determine the most appropriate level of care. We’ll work with you to create an integrative treatment plan to get you on the right path to health and healing.

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