Substance Abuse and Mental Health – Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders

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As researchers learn more about addiction and its effects on the brain, we’re gaining a better understanding of the link between mental health and substance abuse.

Comorbidity refers to the coexistence of two conditions – in this case, a mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder. A 2014 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAHSMA) found that 40% of the people who reported symptoms of addiction that year also had a mental health disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that patients with mood disorders were twice as likely to have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder.

Mental health disorders that often co-occur with addiction include:

Dealing with a substance abuse disorder is never easy, but it’s that much more challenging when you’re also struggling with co-occurring mental health problems.

What’s the Link Between Addiction and Mental Health Disorders?

Although there’s a high rate of overlap between addiction and mental health disorder, this does not mean that one causes the other. To better understand the link between them, it’s important to note that both affect areas of the brain involved in the reward system.

Moreover, substance abuse can cause changes in the brain that make a person more vulnerable to developing symptoms of a mental health disorder. For example, some drugs can increase the likelihood of experiencing psychosis.

People that struggle with mental health problems like anxiety and depression are also more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol in an effort to self-medicate and get some relief from their symptoms.

Both addiction and mental health disorders have a strong genetic component. Just as someone can be genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease, they can be predisposed to mental health problems or addiction. Research shows that up to 60% of a person’s vulnerability to addiction can be traced back to genetics.

Diagnosing Comorbidity

Co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often overlap. They also vary depending on the substance that’s abused and the underlying mental health problem. For example, alcohol abuse can have a very different effect on someone with major depressive disorder and someone with PTSD.

Research shows that the best outcomes require an integrated approach that addresses both the mental health disorder and substance abuse. Unfortunately, this requires specialized training and screening and many people get treatment for one and not the other which is why it’s important to look into the Top 10 Best Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers In The US.

Early detection and treatment can greatly improve the chances of recovery. People with a dual diagnosis often have more severe and persistent symptoms of addiction which are more resistant to treatment. With integrated treatments, both disorders are addressed at the same time, which makes it easier to maintain sobriety.

Whether you’re looking for treatment options for yourself or a loved one, make sure that the program you choose is licensed and accredited. The treatment methods have to be backed by research, and the program should also provide an aftercare program to prevent relapse.