Substance abuse and mental illness are interrelated. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) states that there is a “definitive connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 60 percent of people with substance abuse also has a mental illness. Someone who suffers from both a substance abuse problem and a mental illness has a co-occuring disorder.
The most common issue at hand is self-medication. When a person is suffering from a mental illness like depression or anxiety, they look to self-medicate. This can lead to an addiction that requires substance abuse treatment to overcome.
For example, a person who is depressed may use marijuana to numb the pain. A person who is socially awkward may drink alcohol. The person who struggles with anxiety may reach for benzodiazepines. And the person who lacks energy and motivation may use Adderall or cocaine to get things done.
If you have reason to believe that your loved one may be dealing with a co-occurring disorder, here are some things to know.
Genetics – Research suggests that heredity can predispose someone to both a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder.
Brain Development – Using drugs or alcohol during adolescence may increase the development of a co-occurring disorder. This may be the case because the brain is still developing.
Stress or Trauma – Going through a traumatic event may make a person more likely to develop a substance abuse problem and a mental illness.
Neurological Factors – Addiction and mental illness may share some similarities in terms of neurologics, such as low levels of neurotransmitters.
Warning Signs of a Co-Occurring Disorder
Let’s discuss some of the red flags that may indicate that your loved one is suffering from a co-occurring disorder.
- Intense moods
- History of abuse or trauma
- Treated for a mental illness in the past
- Uses drugs or alcohol in response to feelings of anxiety or painful memories
- Difficulty focusing on tasks or completing projects
- Keeps isolated from friends and family
- Trouble keeping a job, a home or a relationship
- Sadness or hopelessness, even when not under the influence
People with a co-occurring disorder have a very good chance at recovery as long as the substance abuse and the mental illness are treated. The Dunes East Hampton is a dual diagnosis treatment program that offers excellent care for both components. Call us today to learn more.