The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse



  November 1, 2017    

Mental illness and substance abuse are indisputably linked. Substance abuse is a life-destroying affliction that, as a result of its destructive nature, often causes mental illnesses such as depression. Certain psychoactive drugs have also been shown to directly cause even more serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia. Mental illness and substance abuse are endemic issues to society that intersect constantly and from multiple angles.

Connecting Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The two issues act together to form a vicious and often virtually inescapable cycle of suffering. Those who suffer from mental illness are more likely to abuse substances, and those that abuse substances are more likely to have a mental illness. This recursive loop makes recovery exceedingly difficult.

The simple truth is that mental illness and substance abuse are individually tremendously difficult problems for an individual to resolve, with efforts to do so frequently taking years and an enormous personal effort. It is therefore entirely reasonable that having to deal with both problems simultaneously would not only magnify the effects of each but introduce new challenges that would be all the more difficult to overcome due to the compounding nature of the situation.

Prescription Drug for Mental Illness Fuel Substance Abuse

Drugs are commonly prescribed as a means of treating mental illness. Abuse of prescription drugs is the number one gateway to substance abuse. Prescription drugs like Ritalin and Adderall can be addictive. Increased access to these on account of them being prescribed to those with mental illness further increases the likelihood of their abuse and then the abuse of other substances. Those with mental illness start with multiple factors that act to their detriment in terms of avoiding the pitfall of substance abuse. Mental illness also has large indirect repercussions that can lead sufferers down the path of substance abuse.

The disadvantages inherent to mental illness can, in many cases, limit the academic and career success of those afflicted. Perceived failures and real suffering can lead to substance abuse being seen as an avenue to escape. It is common for those who feel despair at their state to abuse substances as a means of coping and as an outlet. It is because of this that those who suffer from mental illness are doubly vulnerable to substance abuse.

Seeking Drug Addiction Treatment is Affected by Mental Health

Mental health and substance abuse treatment is almost always necessary to escape from this cycle of self-destructive behavior. However, it is exceedingly difficult for this process to occur without the individual that is suffering from these issues personally deciding to seek help. While interventions from friends and family can be helpful, unless the individual wants to be treated, external influence will have only limited effect.

Self-treatment and entirely autonomous recovery are possible. However, its exceedingly difficult and has a little material benefit over seeking professional help. If at all possible, it is preferable to encourage and convince those suffering from substance abuse to seek professional help and drug rehabilitation for their own benefit.

The two problems often accompany one another, regardless of causality. The combination can also prove deadly, in some cases quite literally. Substance abuse is always an incredibly dangerous problem for the abuser. Failure to measure dosage correctly frequently leads to overdosing, which has been responsible for the epidemic of opioid deaths sweeping the nation.

This issue is only exacerbated by mental illness. Mental illness is inherently detrimental to the safety of substance abusers specifically, in that its ability to affect judgment can prove fatal as far as overdoses are concerned. In this way, they both contribute to a downward spiral of harmful behavior that frequently has tragic results.

Mental Health Issues Signal the Need for Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Centers

It is therefore important that individuals with mental illness are identified as at-risk for substance abuse and vice versa. Those who abuse substances are similarly likely to be at-risk for mental illness. This understanding is necessary as a matter of public health. A proactive and preventative approach functions as the most effective means of mitigating and reversing the damage of both mental illness and substance abuse. Mental illness is sometimes rooted in depression. There are effective therapies that treat mental health and substance abuse.

Outreach to those affected by these issues is the single most effective way to prevent the worsening of these issues and facilitate the recovery of those worst affected.

Substance abuse can also occur as a result of attempts by those suffering from mental illness to self medicate. This can occur in two forms, either in the abuse of prescription drugs or in the usage of illicit substances in an attempt to self medicate. Abuse of prescription drugs can often be more deadly than that of illicit drugs, due to the common prescription of opioids and anti-psychotics.

These forms of drugs have an enormous potential for overdose when not taken as prescribed. Unsurprisingly, abuse of illicit drugs is not significantly less harmful, given that heroin is also an opioid for which abuse is inherent and endemic. Therefore mental illness is a symptom for which sufferers may abuse drugs in an attempt to alleviate.

Drug Rehabs New Jersey Help with Addiction and Mental Illness

It is because of these numerous, direct and indirect, connections between substance abuse and mental illness that both issues must addressed in parallel. Only a simultaneous effort to aid those who suffer from mental illness, those who suffer from substance abuse, and those who suffer from both can effectively resolve the matter. The connection between mental illness and substance abuse is indubitable and makes both all the more dangerous. At SOBA College Recovery, we believe strongly in the connection to substance abuse and mental health.  Our dual diagnosis program treats these co-occuring disorders concurrently.

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