There have been several studies on the link between mental illness and substance abuse. Two USA health surveys found up to 53% of respondents suffered from drug or alcohol abuse and mental illness. There are many reasons why this might occur. Personality disorders, usually in the form of mental illness, also see a link with substance addictions. For individuals suffering from a personality disorder and addiction, seeking help from dual diagnosis treatment centers California provides the best path toward a successful recovery.
Substance Abuse Can Cause Mental Disorders
For some, substance abuse may have caused their mental illness. There has been an association with cannabis, for example, and an increased risk of psychotic disorders. Longer exposure to cannabis creates a greater risk of psychosis in a dose-dependent manner. The drug acts as a stressor as well as increasing the uptake of dopamine.
Other psychoactive substances can trigger an underlined predisposition to mental disorders. There are documented reports of drug and alcohol use resulting in a reemergence of mental health symptoms. Even in instances where a person’s mental disorder had gone into remission.
Substance Use Helps Relieve Symptoms of Mental Illness
On the other hand, substance abuse may arise out of having a mental illness. A person who takes a substance might begin taking it to relieve symptoms of their mental illness. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder may start drinking alcohol if only to make them more relaxed. In other circumstances, an individual may decide to use a substance to combat the side effects of medicine they are taking. Of course, this relief is only a temporary “solution” and ultimately makes things worse in the long-term.
Common Links Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
There have been reports linking an increased risk of substance abuse for those with a mental illness. One of these links is childhood trauma. If a child has suffered trauma, or witnessed parents consuming substances to alleviate stress or pain, then they themselves are more likely to seek the drugs and alcohol.
A person may also have a genetic disposition to both mental illness and substance abuse. Substance abuse and mood disorders often activate the same areas of the brain. Individuals suffering from substance abuse have been documented having the same trouble with impulse control as individuals with a mental disorder. Impaired impulse control by itself may lead to addiction. The effects only become compounded for those suffering from mental illness.
Continued after infographic:
Addiction and Anxiety
A study from the Journal of Psychiatric Services studied 326 people with substance abuse problems. Of those surveyed, 48% had anxiety or anxiety mixed with depression. The study examined individuals with PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia. The study also showed that those who may have suffered tragic events, such as veterans, had not only higher rates of anxiety, but also increased numbers of those with substance addiction.
Conclusions show anxiety and substance abuse both need to be treated to create a successful treatment plan. In a follow-up study conducted by the Journal of Psychiatric Services, researchers again looked at individuals with addictions who received dual diagnosis treatment. The results found 73% of the patients studied did not have anxiety or depression. Furthermore, and perhaps more encouraging, they were substance-free six months later.
To further the point, almost all individuals that were suffering from anxiety who received only treatment for their anxiety and not their use of drugs or alcohol did not make the six-month milestone. Another study conducted on children emphasizes this point. The study looked at children treated for anxiety seven years later. Those who had responded well to treatment for anxiety were far less likely to use a substance than those who were still anxious.
Addiction and Bipolar Syndrome
Individuals with bipolar disorder are 50 to 70 percent more likely to also have a substance abuse problem. Those with bipolar disorder have a lack of control over their impulses. This lack of impulse control could help link the disorder to substance abuse.
In a study published by the Journal of Clinical Psychology Review, researchers broke down the percent of bipolar patients who had issues with certain substances. This study concluded 14.3% had a dependence on alcohol; 16.8% were dependent on cocaine; 18.5% were dependent on opioids, and 9.2% abused over-the-counter medications.
Even without patients abusing drugs or alcohol, bipolar disorder is very hard to treat successfully. Studies have shown individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to have an unplanned discharge. They are also at a high risk of relapse. A plan that focuses on treating bipolar and substance abuse together through dual diagnosis treatments California is necessary as patients must have a stable supported team for treating both conditions. The plan must also take into account crisis management.
Addiction and Schizophrenia
Studies have shown half of the individuals who have schizophrenia abuse alcohol or drugs. Although deadly in its own way, 90 percent of those with schizophrenia use cigarettes. Individuals who have psychotic disorders may use any substance that is cheap and readily available, including cigarettes and cannabis.
There has been evidence showing patients who took cannabis and suffer from cannabis-induced psychosis were later diagnosed on the schizophrenia spectrum. There is still debate as to whether this is an early sign of schizophrenia or if cannabis usage is acting as a catalyst.
A treatment plan for a person with Schizophrenia needs to include treatment for substance abuse and mental disorder. In addition, treatment should also include social, work, and housing support programming. A long-term plan focusing on the person’s personal goals has proved to work better than just targeting the disorders themselves.
Addiction and Depression
Approximately 20%  of those who abuse a substance have a mood disorder like depression. It is sometimes hard to determine which came first, the depression or the substance abuse. Many individuals suffering from depression turn to substances to fight the feelings of sadness they experience. Conversely, alcohol and cannabis both slow down the brain’s cognitive functioning that can lead to feelings of depression. Stimulants, such as cocaine, elevate a person’s mood for a short while, but the resulting crash can induce depression-like symptoms.
No matter what symptom started first, substance abusers and those with depression both need to be treated simultaneously to have the greatest chance of a successful recovery. A depressed individual told to stop using a substance will likely relapse, while a substance abuser may become depressed will detoxing from drug or alcohol use.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers California
Personality disorders and substance abuse are serious issues. The highest success rates for rehabilitation come from dual diagnosis treatment programs. Through medications, holistic therapies, and counseling, individuals struggling with mental disorders and substance abuse have a path leading to a drug-free life. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse, a mental disorder, or both, please contact Ocean Hills Recovery today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.