The Relationship Between Drug Use and Mental Illness
Statistics show that there is a direct relationship between drug use and mental illness. For instance, 27% of people with mental illness regularly abuse drugs, while in the general population only half that number (13%) indulge.
Unfortunately, 56% of people with mental illness and drug addiction do not get treatment. It’s also unfortunate that only 7% of people get treatment for both disorders.
Addiction is a complex blend of physical, mental, social, and emotional factors. When a person is struggling with one of these issues, drugs often become their means of escape. Below are some examples of how drugs can exacerbate or cause mental illness.
Why Drug Use and Mental Illness are Linked
In some cases, it’s difficult to know which came first, the mental illness or the drug addiction. The two disorders are so intrinsically linked; they must be treated concurrently before a person can overcome their substance abuse or addiction.
Here are some examples of the connection between drug use and mental illness:
Many people who suffer from mental illness use drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. Yes, drugs and alcohol will temporarily mask the symptoms of their condition. However, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol does not work. Those substances do not address the underlying cause of the problem. Additionally, drugs and alcohol will add even more issues to a person’s life.
- Drug use can increase the risk of mental illness.
Drugs and alcohol can alter a person’s brain and put them at risk of developing a mental illness. If a person starts using drugs early in life, then they are even more likely to develop a mental illness. The brain is still forming during adolescence, which is why mental illness is more likely to occur if the drug use starts early in life.
- Drugs can trigger mental illness symptoms.
Certain drugs can cause a person to exhibit mental illness symptoms. The symptoms depend on the type of drug involved. For example, people are likely to develop depression after the effects of meth and alcohol start to wear off.
- Poor decision-making
Mental illness and drug use can also cause a person to make bad decisions. For example, chronic drug users are more likely to be raped or become a victim of a violent crime. This experiences can put them at risk of developing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders.
Individuals who have a drug problem are also more likely to share needles or have unprotected sex. This behavior can put them at risk of developing hepatitis or HIV. People who have a life-threatening illness as the result of a poor decision will struggle with grief, anxiety, and depression.
Treatment of Dual Diagnosis
The combination of mental illness and drug addiction, or dual diagnosis, must be treated in a comprehensive program that places emphasis on each aspect of the disorder, or relapse is more likely to occur.
Therapy is often a part of a comprehensive treatment program. This type of therapy includes counseling from a therapist or psychiatrist in a group or individual setting. For some patients, medication will mitigate the effects of mental illness. Other medications will ease the symptoms of withdrawal.
Most treatment facilities can treat both mental illness and chronic drug abuse. The first step in treatment is to stabilize the patient. The next step is detox, which is the process of ridding the body of the addicting substance. After completing detox, the patient will enter a rehabilitation unit. While in rehab, the individual will participate in counseling and other activities that promote sobriety.
Signs of Mental Illness and Drug Abuse
Recognizing the symptoms of mental illness and drug abuse is the key to making sure both of the problems are adequately treated. If you feel depressed and anxious when you are sober, then you may have a dual diagnosis. Also, you may have a dual diagnosis if you use drugs and alcohol to deal with feelings of sadness, anxiety and stress. Other signs of dual diagnosis include violent behavior, inability to concentrate, appetite changes, social withdrawal, hallucinations, and dramatic mood swings.
Many addicts mistakenly believe that detox is a cure for addiction. It’s important to note that detox only treats the physical aspect of addiction. Lasting recovery is entirely dependent on addressing the underlying emotional or mental issues of the disorder. Otherwise, the individual will relapse, and in many cases, relapse can be life-threatening.
If you would like more information about the relationship between mental illness and drug use, contact us today. We will be happy to answer your questions and recommend a treatment program that is right for your needs.