Addiction and Mental Health Conditions: Does it Matter Which Came First

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental health and substance use conditions often co-occur. In fact, SAMHSA reports that approximately 8.9 million adults have co-occurring disorders. Unfortunately, they also report that almost 80 percent of people with co-occurring disorders do not receive treatment.

Does substance abuse cause mental health issues or exacerbate existing mental health issues? Some medications, both prescribed and illicit, have known side effects that include depression and anxiety. People taking these drugs need to be sure to take the prescribed medication as directed and report any feelings of emotional or mental distress to their healthcare providers. Often, your medical professional can provide you with an alternative medication that may not provide those unwanted side effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), six out of ten people with a substance use disorder also suffer from another form of mental illness. NIDA refers to this condition as comorbidity and believes that drug abuse can lead to a mental illness. However, they also believe that a mental health issue can lead people to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Causes of Addiction

According to the Mayo Clinic, drug addiction is influenced by environmental factors, genetic predisposition, and the alteration of your brain chemistry. When a person is experiencing a mental health issue and has any of these influencing factors, the potential for addiction is greatly increased.

The most frequently reported mental health issues that lead to self-medication through drugs or alcohol are depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.

The Relationship Between Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the relationship between addiction and mental health issues requires a systematic treatment approach that addresses both issues. Since drugs and alcohol are often used to self-medicate, those doing so may not receive the therapy they need to deal with the mental health issues.

While drugs and alcohol may temporarily relieve a mental health issue, they can often worsen the condition. Not only do the effects of the drugs and alcohol sidetrack the person from getting help, but they may also increase the risk of impulsive behaviors. For example, NAMI reports that people with mental illness who abuse drugs are more likely to attempt suicide and to die from their suicide attempts.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Conditions

SAMHSA, NIDA, NAMI, and many other organizations that are involved in understanding mental health and addiction all suggest that the best treatment strategy for a person dealing with a co-occurring condition is an integrated treatment program.

Integrated treatment is the term used to define the creation of a treatment plan that deals with an individual’s mental health issues and addiction simultaneously. A team of professionals works with the addict to create a customized treatment plan that seamlessly enables the combination of several different treatment modalities.

Integrated treatment also provides you with education about both conditions to ensure that you understand the complex relationship between the two. In addition, you are taught coping skills to deal with both issues without resorting to destructive strategies.

Get Help for Addiction

The relationship between addiction and mental health issues is complex and requires special treatment. If you are struggling with mental health issues and addiction, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment for co-occurring conditions.