Mental illness and mental disorders go hand in hand with drug abuse in many cases. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, patients being treated for mental health disorders are also more likely to abuse alcohol (38 percent) and cocaine (44 percent). Plus, 40 percent of respondents in the survey say they are smokers, when on a nationwide scale smoking has been steadily decreasing for years. According to the report, those diagnosed with a mental health disorder consume 69 percent of all alcohol in the country and an incredible 84 percent of cocaine.

Having a dual diagnosis is common in many intersections, but perhaps none so much as mental health and substance abuse. There are many reasons and theories behind this. One of the most popular is the idea that people with mental health disorders often self-medicate in an effort to relieve their symptoms. They may also be prescribed an addictive medication, such as opioids, and start to abuse the drug including seeking out black markets (or switching to heroin) to make it more accessible. Considering many mental health disorders are under-insured and under-diagnosed, it makes sense that a person would take the matter into their own hands. For example, eating disorders are the deadliest, most under-insured, and most under-diagnosed of any mental disorder.

Caught Up in the Cycle
Depressed patients may seek out drugs like marijuana to help numb the pain. Those with anxiety disorders might drink in order to be more comfortable. Drugs such as Xanax and Valium might help the person who struggles with panic attacks. Those with low energy levels due to a mental disorder might take cocaine, meth, or Adderall in order to increase their motivation and energy levels. While drugs and alcohol can temporarily help a person with a mental disorder, it’s a Band-Aid approach. It doesn’t address the real issues and can create a host of new problems, including addiction.

Another issue with dual diagnoses is that the symptoms of one disorder might trigger another, and lead o a snowball effect. Some drugs make problems that can trigger underlying or unknown mental health symptoms. Using certain drugs can lead to delusions, depression (alcohol is a natural depressant), and paranoia. If a person is naturally prone to these symptoms, they can linger well beyond the drugs or alcohol wear off. This leads to what's called a co-occurring mental health disorder. For example, many drugs lead to poor decisions. This can kickstart feelings of anxiety, which can be more dangerous than the original symptom they were trying to treat with self-medication.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that half of people with “severe mental illnesses” also battle substance abuse. Beyond self-medicating for existing mental health disorders, traumatic events such as a divorce or death can also lead to a person reaching for drugs or alcohol. There is also a genetic component to both mental health and substance abuse, as well as neurological connections like having low levels of neurotransmitters. Many teens experiment with drugs and alcohol, and since the teen brain is still developing it can cause an early addiction that a person may return to years after high school.

There are many types of mental illnesses, but the most common that co-occur with substance abuse are depression, PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, ADD, and bipolar disorder according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Sadly, many dual diagnoses are overlooked because both mental health and substance abuse symptoms can look alike. That’s why it’s critical to seek out a qualified rehab facility that specializes in dual diagnoses. Only treating one, mental health or substance abuse, can do more harm than good.

Author's Bio: 

Misty Jhones