The relationship between mental illnesses and addiction is well-documented. Just as people suffering from disorders, such as anxiety or schizophrenia are more prone to abuse drugs or become alcoholics, those who abuse certain substances also end up experiencing mental illnesses.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2014, of the 20.2 million adults who had a substance use disorder (SUD), nearly 40 percent also suffered from a mental illness in a year prior to the survey. Of these, the percentage of adults who had co-occurring mental illnesses and had also reported substance use disorders was the highest in the 26-49 age group (42.7 percent). It was also observed that teens in the age group of 12-17 years who had a major depressive episode reported a higher percentage of illicit drugs usage. Similarly, youths who had a major depressive episode in 2014 were more likely to have used drugs.
However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cautions that one may not cause the other, even if a specific condition occurred first. It has listed three scenarios for coexisting conditions:
- Illicit drugs or drugs abused by people can cause symptoms of mental illnesses to manifest in them, for example, psychosis in some marijuana users.
- The presence of mental illness can lead to drug abuse. Some people may use drugs as self-medications, such as use of tobacco products in schizophrenic patients.
- Drug abuse and resulting disorders or mental illnesses can be caused by similar factors such as underlying brain deficits, genetic disposition, exposure to stress or trauma at an early age.
Identifying reasons for comorbid conditions
Studies have revealed that various factors may lead to comorbid conditions. Some of the common factors are:
- Genetic disposition: It is believed that genes are 40-60 percent responsible for a person’s addictive behavior. At the same time, genes can also determine how an individual responds to stress and other behaviors that can lead him or her to abuse drugs or develop mental disorders.
- Similar brain regions: There are some regions in the brain that are affected by both drug abuse and mental disorders. This overlap of brain regions implies that changes in one can influence the other.
Researchers have also found that drug use typically begins in the teenage years. Adolescence is the time when mental disorders start to show up and co-occurrence of addiction and mental illness can be seen prominently. It is also possible that mental disorder in childhood or in the teenage years can lead to drug use later in life, as has been noticed in cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Moreover, studies have shown a strong correlation between schizophrenia and addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
Integrated treatment for dual diagnosis is essential
In the past, both substance abuse and mental disorders were treated separately. But now, doctors are increasingly focusing treating the two conditions concurrently. There is an increasing trend of integrating mental health and addiction treatment. Often people use substances as a coping mechanism for an underlying mental disorder. If the coping skill is taken away and the underlying illness left untreated, it will only be replaced by another substance.
If you or a loved is has an addiction and a co-occurring mental illness, the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline can assist you in getting the best dual diagnosis treatment in California. Do not hesitate to call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 or chat online with us to know more about dual diagnosis rehabs in California.