A report published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggested that there is a reason why people with mental disorders are up to two times as likely to develop substance abuse disorders:
- Certain drugs can cause abusers to suffer one or more symptoms of another mental illness.
- Mental illness may precipitate or hasten substance abuse. An individual suffering symptoms of a mental illness may attempt to self-medicate.
- Drug use disorders and mental illnesses are caused by overlapping factors; genetic, deficits and otherwise.
Simply, people who struggle with mental health disorders either seek clinical medication or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. People that get prescriptions for their condition are less likely to develop abuse disorders, but often the medications that they get access to have a high abuse potential, creating more risk.
People that self-medicate for their mental illnesses often start early, and the use of drugs or alcohol as a way to escape becomes a natural part of life.
The reverse order can also be true, in which a mental disorder is caused or worsened by the use of drugs or alcohol. For example, some common pairings:
- A study found that cocaine use can cause paranoia and anxiety
- Alcohol and antisocial personality disorder
- PTSD and opioid abuse
The Bottom Line
As the addiction treatment community begins to realize that addiction is itself a mental disorder, the relationship between substance abuse and mental disorders becomes more complicated. Because the greater treatment community largely lacks a proper understanding of dual diagnosed conditions, these conditions are still treated separately, or worse–not treated or diagnosed at all