Resources & Education

October 11th, 2014

Mental Health And Addiction: How and Why Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Often Go Hand-In-Hand

Painkillers kill Addiction is common in people with mental health disorders. Sometimes it’s hard to determine which came first, the substance abuse or the mental health issue. But the combination can complicate treatment. How does mental health affect addiction? How does addiction affect mental health?

One of the most common issues connecting mental illness and substance abuse is the tendency of mental health patients to attempt to self-medicate by using alcohol and drugs. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  • Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
  • 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 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.

Unfortunately, substance abuse causes side effects and in the long run worsens the very symptoms they initially numbed or relieved. It can not only increase symptoms of mental illness, but it can trigger new symptoms including paranoia, depression, aggression, and hallucinations. And alcohol and drug abuse can make medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers less effective.

Further, chronic drug and alcohol abuse increases the chances of becoming a victim of assault or rapeā€”and such traumatic events can create serious mental health issues like PTSD, depression, eating disorders and more. If an addict breaks the law or makes other poor decisions while under the influence, they may then struggle with anxiety in addition to drug addiction.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction

Post-traumatic stress disorder, one of the most emotionally debilitating mental disorders, results when an individual experiences tremendous stress or anxiety after witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event. It causes intense anxiety, intrusive memories and traumatic flashbacks that interfere with daily life and leaves the affected individual feeling powerless and out of control. Many PTSD sufferers turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their pain or to feel they’ve gained some measure of control in their lives.

Depression, Anxiety and Addiction

Depression often causes feelings of hopelessness or numbness, a tendency toward isolation, sleep disorders and digestive or food-related disorders. If medication isn’t prescribed or used properly, people suffering from depression also often self-medicate, which can compound the depression and make it far worse. People with anxiety disorders also often use drugs and alcohol to manage their symptoms. Or substance abusers often develop anxiety disorder as a result of their addictions.

Any of these conditions create a difficult cycle to break. If you are looking for help for yourself or a loved one, call Horizon Health Services. Our 24-hour Hope Line can be reached at 1-855-969-HOPE or you can call (716) 831-1800 to make an appointment.

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