Substance abuse can arise at any age or from out of any circumstance.
As a complex disease, addiction often co-occurs with other mental health illnesses. Much like how heart disease and diabetes are often diagnosed closely or simultaneously in a person, addiction and mental health illnesses are common pairings.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports:
- People with a mood disorder are twice as likely to abuse a drug or alcohol.
- People with schizophrenia have a higher rate of tobacco and alcohol use, showing as many as 90 percent of people suffering from schizophrenia smoke cigarettes.
- Between 60 and 66 percent of drug use disorders have been diagnosed with another mental illness.
According to the NIDA, drug addiction is a brain disease “characterized by compulsive, at times uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use despite devastating consequences—behaviors that stem from drug-induced changes in brain structure and function. These changes occur in some of the same brain areas that are disrupted in various other mental disorders.”
Cocaine Addiction and Anxiety
People tend to use cocaine for the rush of euphoria, but after prolonged use, symptoms associated with anxiety likely develop. Anxiety is an experience of excessive worry or feeling a sense of utter doom about an imminent event or unknown outcome.
Cocaine abuse eventually leads to symptoms such as:
While these symptoms have the ability to subside with sustained sobriety, that is not always the case.
Opioid Addiction and PTSD
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is the result of a person suffering from a severely traumatic event, often in the case of life-threatening events, death, or assaults. An opioid is a pain killer and often given to people who have been through such events, not to treat the PTSD, but to treat possible injuries related to the event, which can lead to a dependence. In other cases, a person may become addicted to an opioid because it induces feelings of pleasure and calm that allow them to escape the underlying pain.
Heroin Addiction and Depression
When heroin is used, the brain is flooded with dopamine. After long-term use, heroin damages the brain’s natural ability to produce feelings of pleasure. Depression causes a person to feel withdrawn, sad, and even physically debilitated. While this is a common pairing, it is also one that can be healed with proper treatment.
Marijuana Addiction and Schizophrenia
While the prevalence of substance abuse among people suffering from schizophrenia is high, marijuana use is the most abundant, according to a report by the Journal of Psychiatry. It’s still unclear as to why this is such a common pairing, especially given the fact that a marijuana high in a person with schizophrenia often mimics a schizophrenic episode. More research is being done in order to further understand this association.
Alcoholism and Antisocial Personality Disorder
According to a report published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people suffering from alcoholism are 21 times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive disregard for, and violation of, other people’s rights. Other terms for this disorder include mental insanity, psychopathy, and sociopathy, and focuses on fundamental emotional detachment.
The correlation between alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder is also studied in terms of increased aggression and child neglect.
What Comes First: Addiction or Mental Illness?
A common question that arises when considering the existence of a dual diagnosis, is whether the mental illness caused the addiction or if the addiction caused the mental illness. According to a study released by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there is no hard answer to this question.
The NIDA reports three possibilities as to how comorbidity develops in a person.
- People are predisposed high-risk genetically for developing both a mental illness and addiction. In some instances, there is a specific gene that increases the probability of developing a mental illness as an adult if that person uses a substance as an adolescent. Secondly, the presence of a mental illness can affect how a person responds to a drug or alcohol. In addition, environmental factors also play a key role in the interplay between the development of both and addiction and mental illness.
- Mental illness can cause a person to use drugs or alcohol. When someone is suffering from a mental illness, especially when undiagnosed, he or she may develop a substance use disorder out of using drugs or alcohol as a method to self-soothe. While some prescribed substances can serve as a useful remedy for a mental illness, in some cases, the substance can make things worse. Additionally, when a person is suffering from a mental health disorder, the effects of a substance or alcohol can be further increased and spike more strongly the reward system in the brain.
- Substance use leads to the development of a mental health disorder. Substance use changes the physiological functions of the brain, making users more susceptible to developing a substance use disorder.
Regardless of which came first, help is always available for people suffering from substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s treatment services can help your loved one get the care they need to move forward.