Mental illness and substance abuse go hand in hand. The co-occurring conditions are technically known as dual diagnosis. While dual diagnosis can happen to anyone of any age or gender, of late, reports have suggested a rise in the number of teens being diagnosed with the condition.
According to a recent research by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), young adults afflicted with mental disorders are at a higher risk of abusing alcohol and illicit drugs. In this regard, another study titled, “Association of Lifetime Mental Disorders and Subsequent Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent Supplement,” revealed that 41.2 percent teens were suffering from a mental illness before they resorted to drugs, 53.8 percent were mentally ill prior to the first drug use and nearly 66.8 percent before the drug abuse, whether dependent or not.
The study involved 10,123 teens in the age group of 13-18 years to understand the link between the two. The result of the study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in February 2016.
Several studies have also been conducted to understand the link between mental illness and substance abuse. Though dual diagnosis is relatively unknown, it is quite prevalent in society. There are several mental disorders that are the result of some kind of substance addiction, the most common ones are:
Marijuana addiction and schizophrenia
The link between marijuana addiction and schizophrenia was first observed in the 1960s and ‘70s when scientists stated that marijuana could cause psychosis (a severe mental disorder that impairs a person’s ability to distinguish between reality and imagination). In fact, adolescents using marijuana are susceptible to showcase symptoms of schizophrenia.
According to a study that appeared in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin in 2014, chronic use of marijuana in teens may cause changes in the brain structure that resemble schizophrenia. Moreover, heavy use of marijuana can augment the underlying schizophrenia symptoms in teens.
While the exact reason of remains unclear, according to a research, marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that causes long-term alterations in brain chemicals, leading to conditions like memory loss, anxiety, mood disorders and others.
Alcohol and depression
Alcohol and depression is a common dual diagnosis. Studies have revealed that alcohol disturbs the chemical balance of the brain, which influences a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions, often turning them negative. Hence, in the case of alcoholism, the teenager is exposed to regular chemical imbalances in the brain that eventually leads to a mental health disorder such as depression. At the same time, a teenager suffering from depression frequently turn to alcohol believing that it has a calming effect and induces sleep.
According to another study, “Suicidality, depression, and alcohol use among adolescents: A review of empirical findings,” published in the journal International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, “16 to 19-year-old females were more than six times as likely to experience depression if they were alcohol abusers than if they were not, and that drug abuse was strongly associated with a lifetime prevalence of depression.”
Cocaine and anxiety
Several studies highlight that cocaine addiction often results in mental illnesses, especially anxiety. A major reason for this is that cocaine is a stimulant that triggers neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby causing anxiety.
In case of teenagers involved in cocaine addiction, studies have proved that they are more susceptible to developing symptoms of anxiety alongside their addiction. Cocaine exposure during teenage potentially can lead to miswiring in the developing brain, which may further cause development of anxiety and other long-lasting behavioral problems.
Opioid addiction and PTSD
Another common co-occurring condition is an opioid addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is commonplace since PTSD patients are often prescribed opioids. However, they tend to misuse the drugs to get high and to relieve their PTSD symptoms. As per several studies, more than half of teenagers with PTSD tend to develop substance abuse problems, as the drugs help them to ease their distress caused due to trauma. These drugs further help the teenagers to experience pleasure and avoid intense feelings.
Alternatively, a study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse stated that people struggling with substance abuse were at a greater risk of developing PTSD (the risk increased by almost 42 percent) as compared to people who were not addicted.
Road to recovery
According to a 2015 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 8.9 million American adults have co-occurring disorders, but only 7.4 percent receive treatment for both the conditions, while 55.8 percent do not seek any treatment at all.
Therefore, it is important to choose a good rehab center that is equipped with various treatment options and can help the patient recover from the debilitating conditions. If you or your loved one is struggling to get rid of the co-occurring disorders, feel free to contact the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline to know about the best dual diagnosis rehab in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 or chat online with our experts to avail the services of the best dual diagnosis rehab in California.
Read the other articles of the series, “Co-occurring disorders in teens”: