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How Are Drugs And Mental Illness Related?

How Are Drugs And Mental Illness Related?

Drug addiction and having a mental illness, usually go hand in hand, but how and why are these related? How to get help?

Continuous use of some drugs can lead to both short- and long-term changes in the brain, leading to mental health issues including paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and other problems. The opposite can happen as well – there could already be mental health issues that lead to drug use, making the mental health issues worse.

Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with other mental disorders and vice versa. For example, compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, with the reverse also true. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH):

In 2015, an estimated 43.4 million (17.9 percent) adults ages 18 and older experienced some form of mental illness (other than a developmental or substance use disorder). Of these, 8.1 million had both a substance use disorder and another mental illness. Although substance use disorders commonly occur with other mental illnesses, it’s often unclear whether one helped cause the other or if common underlying risk factors contribute to both disorders.

How Are Drugs And Mental Illness Related?

How Are Drugs And Mental Illness Related?

Although drug use and addiction can occur at any time during a person’s life, drug use typically starts in adolescence, when a child is full of curiosity, fear and doesn’t quite know how to maneuver situations in life or what to feel or how to act. As a result, a young person usually turns to drugs or alcohol to cope with these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.  

Using drugs at a young age is a strong risk factor for developing substance abuse problems later on, and it may also be a risk factor for the later occurrence of other mental illnesses. But, again, this is because the brain is still developing in these stages of life. 

It is also true that having a mental disorder in childhood or adolescence can increase the risk of later drug use and the development of a substance use disorder. However, some research has found that mental illness may start before a substance use disorder happens, suggesting that a better diagnosis of youth mental illness may help reduce more illnesses to follow. For example, one study found that adolescent-onset bipolar disorder confers a greater risk of a substance abuse disorder that follows compared to adult-onset bipolar disorder. Similarly, other research suggests that youth develop internalizing disorders, including depression and anxiety, before developing substance use disorders.

What Comes First: Substance Abuse Or The Mental Health Problem?

Alcohol and drug abuse can increase the underlying risk for mental disorders. Since genetics, the environment, and other factors cause mental health problems, it’s difficult to say if abusing drugs ever directly causes them. However, if you are at risk for a mental health issue, abusing alcohol or drugs may push you over the edge and make it worse. For example, there is evidence that those who abuse opioid painkillers are at greater risk for depression, and heavy cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk for schizophrenia.

Alcohol and drug abuse can make symptoms of a mental health problem worse. Substance abuse may sharply increase symptoms of mental illness or even trigger new symptoms. Abuse of alcohol or drugs can also interact with antidepressants, anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective at managing symptoms and delaying your recovery.

We Can Help You Get Back On Track!

Evoke Waltham Center is an addiction treatment program located in the heart of Waltham, Massachusetts. Our carefully developed vision of quality clinical care includes Day Treatment and Intensive Outpatient (IOP) programs. 

Our medical, clinical and therapeutic team of experienced and compassionate professionals is available around the clock to treat all symptoms associated with addiction and the underlying causes. This addiction recovery experience is ideal for individuals ready for world-class drug or alcohol treatment who have been suffering from a substance use disorder.