Drug addiction is considered a disease of the brain that often occurs simultaneously with other mental disorders. Experts claim that as many as six out of 10 people with an illegal substance abuse problem also suffer from some form of mental illness. The rates are similar for other legal addictions, such as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medications, as well.
For these particular people, one aspect becomes increasingly more difficult to successfully treat since another condition is involved. Therefore, any individuals entering treatment for drug addiction or for another mental condition should be evaluated for the co-existence of the other. Studies show that treating both conditions simultaneously in a combined fashion is usually the best approach overall.
How Mental Disorders Affect Addiction
Addiction is quite common in individuals with mental disorders and often requires treatment in an inpatient drug rehab facility. Although drug abuse and common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are often intertwined, one doesn’t necessarily cause the other. Consider the following facts:
• Mental illnesses can sometimes result in drug abuse. People with mild, overt, or subclinical mental conditions may use drugs to self-medicate. For instance, people who use tobacco products with schizophrenia are thought to lessen the severity of the disease and enhance cognition.
• The drugs of abuse may cause users to experience multiple symptoms of a mental disorder. The enhanced risk of psychosis in some people who use marijuana has been proven for this possibility.
• Both mental illnesses and drug abuse often are caused by multiple overlapping factors, including early exposure to trauma or stress, genetic vulnerabilities, and underlying brain deficits.
How Addiction Affects Mental Disorders
The high occurrence of co-morbidity between mental illness and drug abuse doesn’t necessarily mean that one has led to the other, even if one showed up first. In fact, determining the exact cause is often difficult for a variety of reasons. A mental disorder diagnosis may not happen until the symptoms have progressed to a certain level. On the other hand, subclinical symptoms can also encourage drug abuse. Vague recollections of exactly when the drug use started can generate confusion as to which one actually came first. Yet, there are a few things to consider:
• Drug and alcohol abuse can sometimes make the symptoms of a mental health disorder worse. Drug abuse can acutely enhance the symptoms of a mental disorder or even trigger new and different symptoms. Drug and alcohol abuse can additionally interact with certain medications, including mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety pills, and antidepressants, which makes them much less effective.
• Drug and alcohol abuse can boost the underlying risk for some mental conditions. Mental health disorders are generally caused by a complicated interplay of genetics, external factors, and the environment in general. If someone is at risk regarding a mental condition, alcohol or drug abuse could in fact push the individual over the edge.
• Drug and alcohol abuse is commonly used to self-medicate away the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Sadly, drug abuse may cause certain side effects and can worsen the original symptoms of which they were initially intended to relieve.
Treatment of Mental Disorders and Drug Addiction While in Drug Rehab
Preferably, both issues should be treated at the same time. However, for any drug abuser, the first step in getting sober is to detox, which refers to a period of time whereby the body cleanses itself of drugs and/or alcohol. The detoxification process should occur under expert medical supervision. The process itself may take a couple of days to a week or longer, based on how long and what drugs the individual abused.
Until rather recently, drug addicts and alcoholics often dreaded the detox process since it meant a very painful and, at times, cold turkey, life-threatening withdrawal. Today, however, doctors can offer hospitalized drug users specifically chosen medications that can significantly alleviate their withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, when the detox process is performed under close medical supervision, it’s generally less traumatic and much safer.
What Follows Detox?
Once detox is over, it’s time to treat the dual diagnosis and start rehabilitation for the drug or alcohol problem and receive treatment for the psychiatric issue. Drug rehab typically involves both one-on-one and group psychotherapy, learning about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse, good nutrition, exercise and participating in a post-treatment recovery program. The idea isn’t to only stop using drugs and alcohol, but to actually learn to enjoy life again without these unnecessary vices.
The psychiatric treatment will primarily depend on the diagnosis. For most conditions, group and individual therapy along with prescription medications are usually provided. Key therapies and education concerning the specific psychiatric disorder are generally useful. Participating in a group with other people who are going through the same issues can also prove highly beneficial. Additional treatment, including expressive or occupational therapy, can help many people to better understand and convey their feelings, or even develop improved decision-making and problem-solving skills.
Does a Dual Diagnosis Always Need to be Treated in a Hospital?
The short answer is no, but the better answer is that inpatient drug rehab will benefit the patient overall in the long run. The severity and nature of the illness along with the individual’s treatment history and the associated complications and risks are some of the important aspects considered in determining the proper level of care. In general, there are a number of intensities or levels of care that include inpatient treatment, hospitalization, outpatient treatment and partial hospitalization.
When the facts surrounding a dual diagnosis are understood, concerned individuals can better appreciate how drug abuse often goes hand-in-hand with mental disorders. A person with a dual diagnosis can get better once proper care is administered. By seeking information and treatment regarding the concept, people can identify the key signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis much easier and lead richer, fuller lives.
Are you or a loved one suffering from a combination of a mental disorder and drug or alcohol abuse? Call the hotline number at 800-447-9081 today to get the help you need and to talk to someone who understands exactly what you’re facing.