Mental health and addiction are two conditions which are intimately linked. While one does not always lead to the presence of the other, someone who has either an addiction or a mental health disorder is likely to develop the other in the future.
A research report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse discusses the risk factors that contribute to both mental illness and addiction. It also touches on how one condition can often lead to the other.
In this post, we’ll attempt to paint a clearer picture of the relationship between mental health and addiction. We’ll also share some practical information on managing either condition to lower the chances of it developing further.
Substance abuse has a profound impact on our mental health. However, it’s not as simple as saying that everyone who abuses substances also has a mental health disorder. The type of substance used, how often it is used, and also how long it has been used will all change an individual’s mental health.
Substance abuse can potentially harm one’s cognitive function, leading to difficulties with memory, attention, and problem-solving. This will highly depend on the type of substance used, as each one can have different types of cognitive impairment.
Simply put, the brain is built from a network of neurons that process and transmit information. If we abuse substances, then the way these neurons interact can be altered. Sometimes the pathways are altered, and sometimes the way they are sent is changed. This ultimately leads to cognitive impairment, especially if the substance is particularly strong at altering the way our brain works.
It’s also possible for substance abuse to socially isolate people. Loneliness is a much higher risk in people who abuse substances, as the use of drugs and alcohol can be linked to joining communities and participating in social events to feel a sense of belonging and comfort. This paper titled Emotional and Social Loneliness in Individuals With and Without Substance Dependence Disorder covers a study that showed a correlation between loneliness and drug abuse.
Social isolation is also something that can harm our emotional and mental health. A study published in The Journals of Gerontology found that loneliness was associated with a 40% increased risk of dementia.
Substance abuse could potentially contribute to the development of mental health disorders. This is due to chemical imbalances created by substance abuse that can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
As certain drugs are abused regularly, the brain will begin to produce less dopamine each time, thus requiring more of the substance in order for the user to feel the same level of high. However, this creates a dependency on the substance, creating powerful cravings that, if not met, will lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Certain substances may also have neurotoxic effects. This paper titled Neurotoxicity of drugs of abuse – the case of methylenedioxy amphetamines (MDMA, ecstasy ), and amphetamines concluded that ecstasy (MDMA) and stimulants amphetamines (METH and AMPII) are the most popular types of drugs that are neurotoxic. These drugs affect several brain regions and potentially damage them.
In short, substance abuse can cause mental health disorders due to the way they affect our brains. However, the rate at which one may develop a mental health disorder will greatly depend on the type of substance being abused and how often it happens.
It has been suggested that people with mental disorders may turn to substance abuse as a form of self-medication. This is because the drugs may provide some temporary relief from the symptoms of a mental illness, potentially providing pain relief or a brief blockage of anxiety, depression, and other emotional distress.
Evidence has shown that this is often not the case and that substance abuse can exacerbate symptoms in the long run and contribute to the progression of the disorder.
If someone has developed a mental health condition or has a pre-existing one, then changes in brain activity may lead to an increased vulnerability to substance abuse for its rewarding effects.
The Genetic Science Learning Center has written a comprehensive piece on the relationship between genes and addiction. It has been found that many genes do indeed influence addiction, but scientists will never find just a single gene that is responsible for causing it. Instead, issues like substance abuse are generally caused by a mix of different genes in addition to environmental factors.
A co-occurring disorder (sometimes known as a dual diagnosis) is when someone has been diagnosed with both a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue. Dealing with both conditions simultaneously is difficult because they are closely linked. Any positive progress made with one condition could have negative effects on the other.
For instance, people may turn to substances to alleviate the symptoms of their mental health disorder. However, doing so will worsen the symptoms of their addiction. Likewise, substance abuse will worsen the symptoms of a mental health problem and also increase the underlying risk for mental disorders.
The most common approach to dealing with co-occurring disorders is to treat both addiction and mental health problems simultaneously. This is far more effective than attempting to treat each of them separately. This will include a combination of medication, counseling, lifestyle changes, and support systems. For the substance abuse part, people may receive help with managing withdrawal symptoms, detoxification, behavioral therapy, and long-term sobriety support.
This article has highlighted the deep connection between mental health and addiction. We’ve explored how substance abuse impacts mental health, the influence of social and genetic factors on addiction, and the complexities involved in treating these intertwined issues.
There’s good news for those facing these challenges: hope and help are available. Medical treatments are constantly improving, offering real benefits. If you or someone you care about is struggling, seeking professional help is an important first step.
Programs that simultaneously address mental health and addiction are particularly effective. One such option is the Massachusetts Center for Addiction. We provide a comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment program tailored to tackle both mental health and addiction issues together.
Support from family, friends, and community groups plays a vital role too. Alongside professional help, making positive lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and effective stress management can significantly aid in the recovery process.
Understanding more about mental health and addiction is beneficial for everyone. Open discussions about these topics can encourage more people to seek the help they need.
Remember, the path to recovery is a journey made up of many steps. Each step taken to address these issues is a move towards a healthier, happier life. Consider taking a step today by reaching out to the Massachusetts Center for Addiction. Their team is ready to guide you through their dual diagnosis treatment program, helping you on your journey to recovery.
Our team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call today and begin your journey toward long-term recovery.