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The Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

The Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Mental illness and substance abuse have such a close relationship that doctors will often give patients a dual diagnosis; that is, a patient is diagnosed with mental illness and substance abuse. This relationship is quite complex, however, there are a number of guidelines that help determine when the relationship exists.

Self Medication

Alcohol and drugs are often used to self medicate, especially for individuals who have untreated mental illnesses. Anxiety and depression are most often “treated” with some form of substance abuse. Many people self medicate in this manner simply because the pain of the mental issue is subsided in an altered mental state. However, it is understood that abuse of substances is physically damaging, no matter how much it helps ease the pain of a mental illness. Many times, the drug actually exacerbates the problem by altering the chemicals in the brain.

Making Issues Worse

As stated above, alcohol or drugs can make mental illness worse. For example, a depressed person might be more likely to attempt suicide while drunk from alcohol. Additionally, withdrawal will make the mental illness worse, such as increased panic attacks from coming off heroin. Drugs and alcohol change brain chemistry, and mental illness is attributed to irregular brain patterns. This means that an already damaged brain is receiving further damage.

Causing Mental Illness

People who do not have mental illness when starting a drug could develop a mental illness through drug use. This is called a “substance-induced psychosis”, and it is very real. Again, drugs damage the brain, and mental illness is associated with damages to the nerves of the brain. It make sense that drugs could lead to a mental illness where none previously existed.

Without a doubt, drugs make a mental illness worse every single time. Active drug users are less likely to complete or follow through with treatment for mental illness, and they are less likely to follow medication plans or to take medications properly. They are hospitalized more often and are less likely to receive the correct type of medical care, because the medical community must deal with the addiction above the mental illness. Many of these individuals experience early deaths, and they are at higher risk for suicides.

If you’d like to talk more about substance abuse and mental illness, call the Vancouver Home Health Care Agency today. At Vancouver Home Health Care Agency, Caring and Compassion is our business.

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