Substance abuse and mental health have a peculiar relationship. Sometimes substance abuse is simply a symptom of mental health. It can be a behavioral phenomenon, an acting out, a pleasure seeking, a psychological escape, or a self-medicating. In this case mental health is the primary problem with substance abuse as the secondary. In other cases of substance abuse and mental health, they are comorbid disorders. This means they are co-occuring. A person in this second case then is given a dual diagnosis. So what then is the relationship between substance abuse and mental health?
Substance Abuse and Mental Health – Relationship
Many substance abusers and addicts also simultaneously suffer from mental health issues. Chronic, repetitive, frequent substance abuse is habitual use of illicit substances for reasons other than intended and in quantities other than intended. This jeopardizes all aspects of the user’s life, including his or her mental health. There are many reasons that these disorders occur together comorbidly, including environmental factors, genetics, social factors, and brain factors. More information on this topic can be found on the page for Depression and Substance Abuse.
The American Psychiatric Association has a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in its fourth edition that lists a set of mental disorders that surround substance abuse, such as substance-induced disorders and substance abuse disorders. These refer to the mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. Common and very serious psychological problems associated with chronic substance abuse include manic depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These disorders also increase the risk of substance abuse, with the addition of antisocial personality disorder. They cause each other, but the correlation never implies causation. As a substance abuse counselor, we must discover the situation in each patient.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health – Single Treatment
Co-occuring disorders are not rare. These dual-diagnoses are prevalent in at least 4 million adults and children every year. Luckily there is a treatment. The treatment is to not separate the treatment for substance abuse and mental health, but to treat both simultaneously. If only one side of the comorbid issue is treated then total recovery is not likely and relapse risk is very high. Treatment should include individual and group therapy, psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, inpatient or outpatient treatment, and recovery support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Substance abuse can easily lead to mental illness, and potentially down a darker, more violent, road. Being able to decipher these specific details is the work of a forensic psychologist, potentially holding a forensic psychology online masters now that the internet can empower anyone. These professionals rely on their education and instincts every day. The fact that you are reading this means you have an interest. Please join the good fight and help us battle substance abuse and preserve our society.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health – Summary
Substance abuse and mental health can be co-occuring disorders, comorbidly suffered by those who have been given the label of those with a dual-diagnosis. To be successfully treated, both problems should be confronted simultaneously, otherwise full recovery is not likely. Substance abuse counselors will work in tandem with psychiatrists and other types of therapists to help assure a full and balanced recovery.