Depression and Anxiety - Dual Diagnosis - Medication-Assisted Treatment

Do Mental Health Disorders Cause Substance Use?

Substance abuse and mental health are related to each other and can be hazardous to health. Call The Forge today to learn more about how we can help.

Do Mental Health Disorders Cause Substance Use?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

May 3, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

It is a widespread belief that mental health issues and substance abuse are interrelated to each other. To better understand this relationship, we need better to understand the meaning of mental illness and substance abuse.

Mental health disorders refer to various mental conditions that affect your ability to think, act and react to the environment. Many people suffer from general mental health concerns in their lives. However, when the symptoms become persistent and more intense, they are more likely to be considered mental health disorders. Examples of mental health issues include schizophrenia, mood disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, addictive behaviors, and others.

On the other hand, the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, or prescription medications in quantities or for purposes other than those for which they are prescribed is considered substance abuse. Substance abuse can result in physical, social, emotional, and occupational problems.

Are Substance Use and Mental Health Issues Interconnected?

According to NIDA, many persons dependent on drugs also have other mental illnesses and vice versa. People that battle addiction are nearly twice as likely as the general population to suffer from anxiety and depression problems, and the opposite is also true. In 2015, an estimated 43.4 million adults 18 years or older (17.9%) suffered from some sort of mental illness (other than a developmental or substance use disorder), and 8.1 million of them had a substance use issue as well as another mental disease. However, substance use disorder and mental health issues often occur together, but it is difficult to suggest if they have some common underlying risk factors.

Per help guide, the Journal of the American Medical Association published reports finding:

  • Substance misuse affects around 50% of people with severe mental illnesses.

  • At least one significant mental disease is present in 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug addicts.

  • A total of 29% of those labeled as mentally unwell abuse alcohol or drugs.

Additionally, while there is usually no direct link between mental health issues and drug overdoses, the data represents an indirect connection between them.

Do Mental Health Issues Lead To Substance Abuse?

Self-medicating with alcohol and narcotics is common in the treatment of mental health issues. People often abuse alcohol and different drugs to alleviate the symptoms of untreated mental disorders, cope with unpleasant emotions, or change their mood momentarily. 

However, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs has many adverse side effects and, in the long term, typically worsens the symptoms it was intended to alleviate. This results in some critical health issues and can even lead to death.

Dual Diagnosis

It's difficult to identify if an individual is suffering from the duality of substance abuse and mental disorder, as the symptoms differ from drug to drug, and other factors are also involved. But here are some general ways to help an individual identify if their mental issues are leading them to substance abuse:

  • Have you identified any pattern between your mental health and substance use? Do you feel anxious or depressed while you drink?

  • Have you received treatment for your addiction or mental health issue in the past? Was it your mental health issue that caused the substance abuse therapy to fail, or was it the other way around?

  • Has someone in your family struggled with a mental illness or abused alcohol or drugs?

  • Are you using drugs or alcohol to escape from memories that make you feel sad, anxious, or frightened?

  • Even when you're sober, do you feel melancholy, worried, or otherwise out of sorts?

If the answer is yes, then there are chances that you are suffering from this challenge.

Several misconceptions are associated with substance abuse and mental health. For example, it's often believed that once a family member or friend develops a mental disorder, they will never recover, or therapy and self-help are simply a waste of time. The reality is quite just the opposite; an individual experiencing a mental disorder or substance abuse can recover with the proper routines, therapies, and support. 

However, if the person remains undiagnosed, the probability of successful withdrawal becomes difficult.

Risks Involved

There are times when individuals dealing with mental health issues try to self-medicate themselves during the treatment procedures. They might come across various health challenges that become unavoidable due to negative actions.

It's also worth noting that the disease combinations which result from mental illness and substance use are numerous. From the causes to the symptoms, these combinations will inevitably progress. For example, if a patient is depressed, they may take sleeping pills to stay unconscious for long periods. 

This is just one example of how a mental health issue develops into some dangerous substance abuse disorders.

Mental health issues combined with substance abuse can put a person in traumatic situations. Many people tend to abuse substances due to mental health issues like anxiety, mood swings, or depression. Hence, one should be especially careful and aware when they have such issues.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with such matters, don't hesitate to seek the treatment they require. We can assist you regardless of whether you are battling with mental illness or substance abuse. Each case is unique, and the programs, treatments, and medications used to rehabilitate also vary from person to person. Remember that the immediate treatment of these problems is crucial, as the longer you delay, the more mental illness and substance use will wreak havoc on your body.

At The Forge, our medical professionals can assist you in determining the best course of action. Please call us today.

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