Mental illness does trigger substance abuse. Studies have provided ample evidence that mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) impel the sufferer to resort to drugs, alcohol or smoke in order to get a quick relief from the agony and shame. A group of scientists has put forth their findings in this direction suggesting a potential association between mental health problems and consumption of addictive substances by teenagers suffering from mental health issues.
The study titled “The association of psychiatric symptomatology with patterns of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use among Brazilian high school students” revealed that adolescents who scored significantly high on a behavioral screening questionnaire were at a greater likelihood of using tobacco, alcohol and marijuana when compared with those who showed no signs of psychological diseases. The findings are based on observations by researchers from the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Federal University of Sao Paulo while focusing on the relationship that may exist between symptoms of psychiatric disorders and substance use patterns among Brazilian high school students.
The scientists looked at details of 4,034 high school Brazilian students from 128 public and private schools in Sao Paulo from September 2013 to December 2013. The participants, aged between 15 and 18 years, informed about their consumption patterns concerning tobacco, alcohol and marijuana during the past month. Most of the respondents were females and studied in public schools. The scientists made the necessary considerations for gender and socio-economic status as well. The findings were published online in The American Journal on Addictions in July 2016.
The researchers found that 44 percent of the respondents were not afflicted with signs of any kind of mental illnesses; 8 percent of the participants exhibited some signs whereas 49 percent showed extreme symptoms of psychologically distraught behavior. Alcohol use during the past month was reported to be 38 percent while 2 percent of the respondents drank alcohol on a frequent basis. Smoking percentage rates were nine for prior month users and two for frequent users. Last month and frequent marijuana users were seven and two percent, respectively.
Determining comorbidity of mental illness and substance abuse is critical
The scientists also noted that teenagers who had scored significantly high on the behavioral survey by responding to the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire showed heightened proclivity to have consumed alcohol, smoked tobacco or marijuana during the past month when contrasted with those who showed no signs of indulgence in substance abuse. The level of substance use varied in accordance with the severity of the symptoms of mental health disorders like emotional disturbance, problems in behavior and conduct, hyperactive attitude, relationships with friends and positive social behavior.
Though the link between mental health disturbances and substance abuse behavior has been discussed in the past, results of the study provide direct evidence of the existing association that needs to be looked into by health care authorities while formulating methods to control illicit substance misuse. Highlighting the importance of the study in today’s environment, senior author, Dr. Silvia Martins, associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City said, “Studies to determine which specific mental health symptoms are associated with substance use among adolescents in different settings are crucial.”
Though the study was conducted in Brazil where there are existing socio-economic disparities, the high prevalence of co-existence of mental disorders and substance abuse problems cannot be ignored. Teenagers are the most vulnerable class as they stand on the threshold of experiencing a new life where peer pressure, strained relationships with parents and friends, and performance-related stress pushes them to self-medicate with harmful substances. The brain undergoes significant changes during those years, which increases the vulnerability of developing both the problems simultaneously.
Initiating treatment for co-occurring problems of mental health and addiction
A comprehensive treatment program needs to be planned to enable recovery for patients diagnosed with comorbidity of drug use and mental problems. While recovery may not seem easy at first, a step-by-step approach in addressing the needs of the patient will ensure improvement in overall health.
If you or your loved one is suffering from comorbidity of disorders, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. If you would like to know more about dual diagnosis drug treatment in California, you may connect with the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline. You may also call our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 or chat online with experts to get details about the best dual diagnosis rehab in California.