Mental Health & Substance Abuse

What is the link between substance abuse and mental health?

When you have both a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. In a dual diagnosis, both the mental health issue and the drug addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others.

To make the situation more complicated, the co-occurring disorders also affect each other and interact. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem usually gets worse as well. And when drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase too.

What comes first: Substance abuse or the mental health problem?

Addiction is common in people with mental health problems. But although substance abuse and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety are closely linked, one does not directly cause the other.

Drugs are often used to self-medicate the symptoms of depression or anxiety

Unfortunately, substance abuse causes side effects and in the long run worsens the very symptoms they initially numbed or relieved.

Drug abuse can increase underlying risk for mental disorders

Mental disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other outside factors. If you are at risk for a mental disorder, drug abuse may push you over the edge.

Drug abuse can make symptoms of a mental health problem worse

Substance abuse may sharply increase symptoms of mental illness or trigger new symptoms. Drug abuse also interacts with medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective.

According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
  • 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
  • Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs.

Recognizing co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose a substance abuse problem and a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. It takes time to tease out what might be a mental disorder and what might be a drug or alcohol problem.

Are you in denial?

Complicating the issue is denial. Denial is common in substance abuse. It’s hard to admit how dependent you are on drugs or how much they affect your life. Denial frequently occurs in mental disorders as well. The symptoms of depression or anxiety can be frightening, so you may ignore them and hope they go away. Or you may be ashamed or afraid of being viewed as weak if you admit the problem.

How FRBH Can Help

Four Rivers Behavioral Health (FRBH) offers a variety of substance abuse programs for both adults and adolescents. Their Specialized Addiction Services offers additional substance abuse treatment programs.

An Intensive Substance Abuse Program is available for those involved in the court system, have a history of legal problems related to substance abuse or have failed at other treatment efforts. Specifically, they offer Hazelden Betty Ford’s COR-12 Program as part of the many substance abuse treatment options available to our clients.

COR is the acronym used for Comprehensive Opioid Response and the 12 signifies the importance of including a Twelve Step component with treatment. The program has an option for medically assisted treatment in conjunction with substance abuse counseling.

Visit http://4rbhaddictiontreatment.org to learn how to get help.


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