Both mental health and drug abuse are topics still often considered taboo, and yet are imperative to talk about. Many people suffer in silence. Not knowing who they can trust to open up to or how they can reach out for the care or treatment they need.

Although both drug addiction and mental illness can be experienced separately from one another. It’s also important to talk about the connection between them and how they can quite commonly co-occur.

According to reports shared by the Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA), 53% of people who abuse drugs have at least one serious mental illness. Secondly, 29% of people in the report diagnosed with mental illness reported abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

Addictions or mental health problems that are experienced simultaneously indicate that a person may be struggling with co-occurring disorders. That is, they meet the criteria for more than one mental/psychiatric disorder and/or addiction.

Someone struggling with co-occurring disorders might need a dual diagnosis treatment – discussed more below – in order to receive the most effective help for their addiction and emotional pain.

All of this jargon may sound a bit scary at first or difficult to follow. But discussing these things helps normalize conversations that family, friends, and other loved ones should be able to have with one another. Especially if one suspects that someone close to them is in pain and needs help.

What is the Link Between the Two?

Renowned medical and psychiatric journals unanimously agree that there exists a connection between mental health problems and drug abuse. As further evidenced by statistics such as those stated above.

There are certainly people who struggle with one and not the other. And these struggles are no less valid or real than those experienced by people who are impacted by both. Many of the statistics shared on the link between the two reflect the likelihood of someone with either addiction or mental health issue may struggle with both at some point in their life.

But why do these two co-occur? Why might someone with a mental health disorder be particularly more likely to also abuse drugs or alcohol?

Some of these reasons may include:

  • Self-medication – Some symptoms of mental health disorders, such as difficulty coping with intense emotions and insomnia. May lead someone towards an addictive substance as a means of quelling them. This may be more likely in cases where mental health disorders have gone undiagnosed.
  • Family history – People who come from a family history of drug abuse or mental illness may be more likely to struggle with addiction or mental health due to both genetic and environmental factors.
  • Symptoms of one may trigger the other – Just as individuals with mental health struggles may turn to drugs to help manage their symptoms. Some of the effects of drug abuse may also lead to developing mental health disorders. Poor decision-making, for instance, can lead to dangerous and potentially traumatic situations that could potentially trigger the onset of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or anxiety.

Getting Help

Both mental health disorders and substance addictions can have their own unique causes and symptoms. But they share the commonality of often serving as a disturbance to a person’s normal, functional routine. They can complicate school, work, as well as the maintenance of meaningful relationships with family and friends.

Mental health services are available to treat people who do not struggle with addiction to substances. As well as those who do.

Turning to resources that are equipped to provide the care you need. That is, are specialized in providing single or dual-diagnosis treatment. Can be crucial in order to ensure you or the person you care about will be getting the help they truly need.

If you are worried about the mental health of someone in your life who misuses drugs. Don’t be afraid to reach out, start a conversation, and help them to get the help they deserve.

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