Josh Chandler | April 9, 2015

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and mental health issues are two conditions that almost always go hand in hand. Although addiction is in fact a clinical disease, it is brought on by mental health issues, which are either underlying or the end result of the addiction. To this end, both disorders are treated equally in the recovery process.


Common Mental Health/Addiction Disorders

There are several kinds of mental health disorders that commonly go with addiction, and these are regularly treated in the recovery process, both in detox and extended, inpatient programs.

Anxiety or fear that impedes normal functioning may be classified as an anxiety disorder. Commonly recognized categories include specific phobias as general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mood Disorders involving profound sadness, melancholia or disorder involving or despair is known as major depression (also known as unipolar or clinical depression). Milder but still prolonged depression can be diagnosed as dysthmia. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) involves abnormally “high” or pressured mood states, known as mania or orhypomania, which alternates with normal or depressed mood.


Comorbidity and Family Issues

When two illnesses occur together, like mental illness and addiction, it’s called Comorbidity. Generally there are numerous reasons for why an addiction may result a mental illness, or why more than one affliction coexists in a single patient. Approximately 60% of addicts suffer from a mental illness, but one will not always cause the other.

Genetics is definitely an aspect in the progression of substance abuse and mental illness. Facts suggest that definite genetic features can put some people at a bigger risk of developing a second illness in reaction to the first. An environmental trigger is also obligatory, and this may include early trauma, stress, or contact with drugs at an early age, either use or living with a family member who abuses drugs.

Families are not always able to recognize that a mentally ill person might also have a substance abuse problem, often because behavioral changes associated with substance abuse are commonly already present in the mentally ill. They may be argumentative, absent-minded and rebellious due to their illness and perhaps that is all. However, if they begin to show other signs, such as money problems, needle marks, dilated eyes, long and frequent trips to the bathroom, or if they are involved in theft in the home, an addiction may in fact be present.

In some instances, addicts become mentally ill, not the other way around. Frequently long, drawn-out addictions to drugs or alcohol lead to mental illness, and once the damage is done there is little help for the addict. For these reasons, early intervention is advised.


Addressing The Signs

Addressing the addict can be difficult due to the fact that denial is often the main response. It’s generally a good idea to avoid dealing with the issues when the person while the person seems to be under the influence. This is a sensitive issue and should be treated as such. Threats of calling authorities or hospitalization are not a good idea, unless there is commitment of following through. People often verbalize issues and emotions that they don’t mean in the heat of conflict, and it’s critical to make sure the individual understands and believes that you mean what you say.


Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Treatment

Standard substance abuse treatment programs may not be enough for the patient suffering from mental health issues. Enrolling in a program that refers the patient back and forth between a mental health facility and an addiction-only facility isn’t the right option. A treatment program that is capable of addressing both illnesses together is the best choice, and more and more treatment facilities that handle both issues at the same time are more common.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: In every person, thoughts, emotions and behavior have a general connection. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps to identify and modify dysfunctional thought and behavior that intensify symptoms of co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders Therapeutic techniques focus on ways to change negative thought patterns and the results that follow.


Medication: The use of medication in a precise and effective way as part of an overall treatment of serious mental illness in correlation with substance abuse can bring extremely rewarding results for many patients.  Quality treatment programs monitor and record each patient’s results throughout the treatment process, and include family members and the entire clinical team in decision making throughout the entire process.


Motivational Interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a goal-oriented, participant-focused process that engages individuals in the treatment process, decreasing ambivalence and encourages greater personal, success-oriented drive and motivation. Motivational interviewing helps patients develop coping skills and behavior that enhance recovery and a sense of personal importance.


Dual Diagnosis

In some instances, the Dual Diagnosis prognosis will be made in a person suffering from mental illness and addiction. This is not to say that all addicts have a mental health disorder, but again, mental health issues go hand in hand with addiction treatment. Dual diagnosis is its own disorder, and should not be confused with general mental health disorders that need to be treated in conjunction with addiction issue.

Dual diagnosis is a co-occurring disorder, and is described as having some form of mental illness along with substance abuse. There are varying degrees of the disorder; the mental illness side can be represented by severe forms such as schizophrenia psychosis, to milder conditions such as panic or anxiety disorders. In addition to this, symptoms of substance abuse can often mirror those of mental disorders, making it difficult to distinguish between substance abuse-induced psychiatric states and re-existing psychological health issues. It is common knowledge though, that many disorders among substance abusers fade away with extended abstinence. However, certain stages of detoxification trigger, for instance, prolonged depression or psychosis; this is quite common with amphetamine and cocaine addiction.

Addiction,Mental Health,Recovery,Rehab,Treatment,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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