By: Nicole
November 17, 2020

Mental Health and Addictions: What’s the Link?

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These two aren’t just linked, they are inextricably linked with each other.

For starters, when you consider the definition of addiction, the very concept of it is intertwined with our minds.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders, and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances.”

The nature of addiction and the associated compulsive behavior being a mental illness in its own right is one thing but there’s a deeper connection we’re after here.

We’re looking for a link.

What Is the Link Between Mental Health and Addictions?

Drug abuse related to mental illness is not novel and it’s not even necessarily a profound revelation. It’s something that likely intuitively feels connected to most people and the statistics bear it out.

In 2014, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) noted that 7.9 million adults in the United States had a co-occurring substance abuse disorder and a mental illness. Additionally, studies find that roughly half of the people who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance abuse disorder and vice versa.

Those facts are getting closer to the heart of the matter. That one can trigger the other.

Drug abuse can prompt mental health issues and on the flip side, a mental health issue can lead one to drugs as a coping mechanism which can create a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle of anguish for a person. 

That cycle, of living with mental health issues and a substance abuse disorder, affects more than 1 in 4 adults and the Department of Health and Human Services adds that substance abuse problems happen most often with particular mental health problems, namely: depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders.

If fact these things are so interconnected that there’s a term for it, dual diagnosis.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

In the most basic sense, it’s what we’ve been describing here throughout, the comorbidity of substance abuse and mental illness.

The wonderful thing about having a name for it means that, on the one hand, people can take solace and comfort in having a diagnosis. Not having to wonder what’s happening in your brain and that there are tangible deep wells of knowledge out there on what you’re going through is beyond a relief.

And on the other hand, and perhaps even more importantly, owing to that constantly expanding knowledge, there are treatments dedicated to dual diagnosis patients.

The best course of action is to treat them both together, in an integrated fashion, because both conditions influence and play off each other. So if you only tackle substance abuse, for example, you’re not addressing what might’ve been the root causes of why someone turned to drugs or alcohol in the first place.

It swings both ways, if you can navigate your way out of a mental illness but don’t address the physical or mental aspects of addiction and dependency, you’re essentially leaving the door wide open to relapse.

How to Get Help When Suffering From a Mental Illness and Addiction

Suffering endlessly with two things at once, mental illness and addiction, is not a life sentence. Fortunately, there are real, evidence-based solutions out there in the form of comprehensive and holistic treatment that works to address both conditions at the same time.

Reach out to us at Multi Concept Recovery and let us help you get on the path to recovery and living the life you deserve.