Mental Health deserves center stage alongside Addiction
Addiction is a serious issue on its own. It requires a significant effort on the behalf of the person to seek treatment and go through a rehabilitation and recovery process. Any addiction can significantly affect the individual’s quality of life and can be difficult to treat. However, one of the issues associated with addiction is that it often doesn’t occur alone. Individuals with substance abuse problems frequently have co-occurring disorder, usually other mental health issues, that can make the treatment for addiction much more complex.
What are some common disorders that occur together with addiction? The first category is mood disorders. Problems like depression are very common among individuals who have addiction. Some people with this disorder may also have undiagnosed (or diagnosed) bipolar disorder. Another common category is anxiety. Many individuals who have addiction also have anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, which is characterized by the presence of panic attacks. One particular problem that is significantly associated with addiction is Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. Many people with addiction can also have other mental health issues, which might range from problems like personality disorders to disorders like schizophrenia.
Why do these issues occur together with addiction? This may be because they precede it or occur (or become worse) due to substance abuse. Let’s take a closer look at this.
First, mental health disorders may occur with addiction because they precede it. Frequently, a person can have a mental health issue that remains undiagnosed or untreated. In this case, the individual can use different ways to deal with their symptoms. Someone with depression, for example, can use alcohol to numb themselves or take a stimulant to feel euphoric and happy for a while. A person with an anxiety disorder can use alcohol to relax in social situations and cope with their anxiety. Someone with post-traumatic stress disorder might abuse substances to cope with the symptoms. For people who do not know about treatment options, have never received a diagnosis, or who have limited funds to afford proper treatment, drugs and alcohol might serve as ways of dealing with the symptoms on the short-term, which can lead to addiction. While not all people with substance abuse problems start using because of untreated mental health disorders, this is true of many individuals.
However, substance abuse is, at best, a temporary solution for problems associated with mental health issues. Most substances can make the symptoms worse on the long run and may also contribute to the development of mental health issues. For example, there is some evidence that in people who have a predisposition for different conditions, like schizophrenia, using certain drugs, like marijuana, can trigger a psychotic episode. For most, substances can make their symptoms significantly worse or lead to the appearance of new issues even if there were none previously. Why does this happen?
Substances have an effect on the brain. Many drugs change the way the brain functions because they alter the neurochemical balance or the way in which the brain operates. For example, one can take a look at heroin. When a person becomes dependent on heroin, it means that their brain operates normally when there is heroin in their system but abnormally when there is not. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of heroin and releases a certain amount of a neurotransmitter that is excessive when there is no heroin to deal with it. This neurotransmitter, noradrenaline, can make the person feel anxious and induce symptoms of withdrawal that harm the individual’s well-being and mental health. Other substances act upon the brain reward system. This means that the brain does not release the neurotransmitters associated with reward anymore unless the person is using. This means that the individual can no longer enjoy other activities, which is associated with depression and make this problem worse.
Additionally, it can be difficult to treat addition when there is another disorder present. It means that this disorder also needs to be addressed, because kicking an addiction puts strain on the brain and the body and can temporarily worsen the symptoms of the disorder. This makes the person more distressed and might make them more likely to use again to relieve the symptoms, especially if the substance was used as “medication” for the disorder previously.
An effective type of treatment for addiction will need to address and accommodate the other disorder as well. In many cases, providing treatment for the co-occurring disorder can be very beneficial for the person and can lead to significantly better results.
Co-occurring disorder are an important feature of addiction. It is essential to see if the person is experiencing the symptoms of other mental health disorder and address it as well as the addiction.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and battling mental illness, Valley Spring can help get you connected to the appropriate professionals! We offer a sober community in NYC and provide recovery services to those struggling with addiction. If you’d like to learn more about the damaging effects of alcohol or learn more about sober homes <– Click here. And please feel free to read our previous blog about if media depictions of drug use have an impact of real-world drug use.