Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

Many people who suffer with the disease of addiction are also diagnosed with other mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Some addicts develop mental health issues due to their drug use and their drug of choice while others attempt to use drugs to suppress their disorders. It is common for those suffering from eating disorders to indulge in drugs that relieve them from starvation and assist in severe weight loss. It is also common for military veterans to use drugs to suppress complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Regardless, whatever symptoms appear first, it is imperative that both addiction and mental illness are treated at the same time.

The relationship between drugs/alcohol and mental illness is complex. Treatment is more complicated in this regard, however, as stated previously it is a common occurrence.

The facts

Certain groups of people with mental illness, take for example males of a low socioeconomic status or war veterans, are at a higher risk of abusing alcohol, opiates and marijuana. Studies have shown that almost one-third of people with mental health problems, from severe schizophrenia to anxiety disorders, experience substance abuse, with a diagnosis of both Mental Health and Addiction.

The relationship between mental health and substance abuse

• Mind altering substances are a form of self-medication. Those with mental illness, if left untreated, feel less ‘pain’ when high or drunk. This self-medication does not treat the condition and only progresses it, making it worse.

• Alcohol and drugs can drive the mental illness, making it worse. This can happen during the high and worsens with the come down. For example: a person suffering from depression may become suicidal on a crystal meth comedown while someone suffering from anxiety will experience severe panic attacks withdrawing from heroin/alcohol.

• Substance abuse can also trigger mental illness. Someone who has never suffered from paranoia can become completely possessed by it when abusing stimulants, hallucinogenics and marijuana. This is known as substance induced psychosis and is difficult to treat – it can also be long-lasting. A life altering consequence of substance abuse.

Below are some tips to increase chances of a full recovery from addiction and mental illness:

• Get parallel treatment for both addiction and mental health – from a highly trained team of professionals.
• Stick to your meds. It is imperative that you acknowledge the importance of therapeutic medications. Many addicts will skip these pills or this treatment, this is why going in-patient is imperative as you get into a routine and cannot skip medication.
• Support, support, support. Always ask for help.
• Have an all-inclusive treatment strategy – this should bring partners, children and spouses into the therapy. Group and individual counselling is imperative for self-growth, acknowledgement and acceptance.