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Substance Abuse And Mental Illness: How They’re Related

It’s common to find people struggling with substance abuse or mental illness. In some cases, you may discover individuals dealing with both issues. Contrary to what many believe, substance abuse and mental health complications are strongly related.

People might use alcohol and drugs to cope with mental health conditions. Similarly, you’ll find those whose substance use habits caused, revealed, or worsened mental health issues.

Psychologists and other experts will call it a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis when one is dealing with a mental illness and substance use. In this case, the person needs special treatment from facilities like Jackson House.

To better comprehend how mental illnesses and substance abuse are connected, this article offers four points about this complex relationship. Read on to understand the link between these two.

  1. Mental Health Conditions Can Cause Substance Use

Sometimes, people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues will use alcohol or drugs. In most cases, they do so to relieve the symptoms of these mental illnesses or as a way to cope.

Extended substance abuse often leads to addiction regardless of the reason for usage. In this case, the person will deal with substance misuse and mental illness. Though the initial purpose of drug and alcohol usage was temporary relief, they may develop dependence. Besides, the abused substances can worsen the symptoms the person was trying to suppress or escape from. As a result, they’ll crave more drugs or alcohol.

No one is immune to mental illnesses. So, consider a mental health evaluation if you experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, or any other issues affecting your psychological well-being. A psychologist or psychiatrist will diagnose you and offer suitable treatment if necessary. This way, you can fully recover and lower your chances of engaging in drug and alcohol abuse.

  1. Substance Misuse Can Contribute To Mental Illness

Substance abuse can contribute to mental illness in several ways. Alcohol and drugs might not directly cause mental health issues. Also, not everyone engaging in substance abuse will develop mental illnesses. However, for people already predisposed to a particular mental health issue, misusing alcohol and drugs can trigger symptoms.

Additionally, if one is already taking antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or any other medications for treating mental conditions, substance abuse might make things worse. This is because alcohol and drugs can make the medications less effective. Therefore, managing the present illness becomes challenging. Symptoms may become severe, and recovery may be delayed. If a person was in remission, the signs that could have reduced or disappeared might re-emerge.

Extended alcohol and drug abuse may eventually lead to mental illnesses. This is because prolonged use causes long-term alterations in the brain by affecting some hormones and neurotransmitters. This way, one may develop psychological disorders.

For instance, extended opioid and alcohol usage might cause a person to develop depression. On the other hand, prolonged misuse of methamphetamine, psychedelics, and hallucinogens increases the risk of a user becoming schizophrenic.

  1. Substance Abuse And Mental Illness Can Have Similar Risk Factors

Substance abuse and mental illness can also have similar risk factors. This means that aspects that increase a person’s vulnerability to mental health conditions and substance misuse may be alike. These factors are well-explained below:

  • Environmental aspects like a history of abuse, chronic stress, or trauma are thought to increase a person’s vulnerability to substance misuse and mental illnesses.

  • Brain parts like the stem, cerebral cortex, and limbic system may be connected to the development of both mental health complications and substance use disorder (SUD).

  • Neurological mechanisms connected to dopaminergic regulation and stress response are believed to be factors that can trigger substance misuse and mental illnesses.

  • Some genetic aspect and family history factors could also influence the development of mental health and drug and alcohol abuse disorder.

Several risk factors can increase one’s vulnerability to mental illnesses and substance abuse. Over time, experts are doing more research and presenting additional evidence that reveals other risk factors that can cause a stronger connection between the two.

The information can be significantly helpful for psychologists, psychiatrists, and other health experts. They’ll be able to diagnose people and provide suitable treatment correctly. This might be even more useful for specialists treating patients with a co-occurring disorder

  1. Mental Illnesses And Substance Use In Adolescence Or Childhood Can Increase Vulnerability To Both Issues Later In Life

It’s believed that using alcohol and drugs in adolescence or childhood can increase vulnerability to substance abuse and mental illness issues later in life. This is because the brain keeps developing through childhood and adolescence.

The circuits regulating executive functions like impulse control and decision-making may be the last to mature. This raises the likelihood of drug and alcohol use and the development of SUD later in life.

The abuse of drugs and alcohol during childhood or adolescence is a strong aspect that can raise the risk of SUD in adulthood. It can also increase the chances of struggling with mental health complications. That said, this connection may not necessarily be the cause; it may be the risk factors substance abuse and mental disorders share, like environmental influences and psychosocial experiences.

On the other hand, mental health conditions in adolescence or childhood could also raise the risk of drug and alcohol use and the development of SUD later in life. In some cases, mental health complications experienced earlier in life may come before the use of alcohol and drugs in adulthood.

Overall, this reveals a great need for proper diagnosis and effective treatment of childhood mental illnesses and substance abuse. This may help lower the risk of developing either issue in adulthood. It also reduces the chances of dual diagnosis later in life.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t uncommon to find people struggling with alcohol and drug use and mental health complications. In most instances, people know this is possible but can’t tell the connection between the two issues.

This article has provided four points to help you understand how substance abuse and mental health conditions are linked. As you’ve learned, mental health issues can cause the misuse of drugs and alcohol, and substance abuse can contribute to mental illness. Also, drug and alcohol use and mental illness can have similar risk factors. Lastly, mental illnesses and substance use in adolescence or childhood can increase vulnerability to both issues later in life.

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