It’s no surprise that mental illness and substance abuse often go hand in hand. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), 26.7% of people dealing with mental health issues abused drugs compared to 13.2% of those without. People struggling with both of these issues can often struggle to find the correct treatment, with 55.8% of people failing to receive any help for either.
Substance abuse and mental health
People use drugs or abuse alcohol for many different reasons, and while studies are ongoing, mental health experts have already determined some factors regarding the issue of substance abuse and mental health.
Those who have a mental illness may attempt to self-medicate with the use of alcohol, prescription medication, or illegal drugs. When using these substances, individuals may feel less depressed, anxious or neurotic but when the effects of the drugs wear off, mental health symptoms often return even stronger than before. Over time, these people can start to believe that the drug is needed to control their mental health problems.
When abused, certain drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin can change chemicals in the brain and therefore lead to mental health problems including depression and anxiety. This becomes worse for those who are already at a high-risk factor of developing a mental illness, as the substance can push them into further psychological distress. High-risk factors include genetics, the environment, and major life experiences.
Dual-diagnosis: finding the best treatment
For a person suffering from two major issues, this is known as a ‘dual-diagnosis’ or a ‘co-occurring diagnosis.’ It is important that the correct diagnosis is given and that the chosen treatment will address both issues as separate entities alongside considering how they can affect one another.
In most cases, comprehensive treatment will need to be undertaken. This involves one-to-one sessions with a therapist or psychiatrist, medication to help with withdrawal symptoms, and time spent in a specialist treatment facility. These kinds of treatment facilities will be well versed in dealing with patients who have been given a dual diagnosis.
First, the patient will be placed in detox, a process that removes the drugs or alcohol from the body completely and preventing withdrawal symptoms that can become severe depending on the substance that was being abused. Once stable enough for treatment, the patient will spend time in a rehabilitation unit whereby their mental and physical health history will be discussed, and the most suitable therapy will be provided.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse issue, then you should not hesitate to contact a rehab facility before the situation becomes more severe, and therefore more difficult to treat.