Mental Health and Drug Addiction

One major problem in the treatment of addiction is a co-occurring diagnosis, sometimes called a dual diagnosis. This is a condition in which an individual suffers from a mental illness in addition to struggling with addiction. When the individual is finally brought to treatment, both issues have to be addressed simultaneously. Only treating the addiction often raises the risk of a relapse, because the individual will be more likely to self-medicate for the mental illness.

People Aren’t Getting the Treatment They Need

Research into co-occurring disorders has revealed some surprising facts about the lack of treatment received by those in need. For example, a study conducted in 2016 revealed that 8.2 million adults suffered from both a mental illness and an addiction. Out of this group, just 48.1% of people received treatment for one of their conditions, while the remaining majority received no treatment at all. The study also found that a small portion of the public, only 6.9%, received treatment for both an addiction and their mental illness.

As a result, addiction treatment facilities have restructured the services they offer. Today, intake involves a psychiatric evaluation in addition to the typical addiction assessment. This helps ensure mental illnesses are identified early, so the individuals can receive mental health treatment alongside their addiction therapy. This ensures the individual receives treatment for the underlying causes of the addiction, so the risks of a relapse will be minimized.

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How Does Addiction and Mental Illness Interact?

The relationship between drug addiction and mental illness is one of the most tragic cycles one can experience. In most cases, the individual is suffering from a psychological or emotional problem before he or she begins to abuse drugs. Their mental illness is often undiagnosed and they turn to drug abuse to self-medicate for the condition without even realizing that’s what they’re doing.

The individual begins taking the drug, because he finds that the substance use helps him to feel better. In fact, the drug is minimizing or eliminating the symptoms of the mental illness. In the beginning, this effect is more pronounced, but, unfortunately, the brain adjusts to the presence of the drug and builds up a tolerance. As a result, the individual must take the drug more frequently and in higher doses just to feel the same level of relief.

This cycle is worsened by the fact that the drug worsens the severity of the mental illness. When the effects of the most recent dose wear off, symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental illness will be worsened. In turn, this prompts the individual to take another dose sooner and that increases his dependency on the drug. Ultimately, this cycle continues until the individual either seeks treatment or suffers an overdose.

How Do Treatment Centers Handle a Dual Diagnosis? 

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Although many treatment centers are equipped to treat mental illness and addiction, there are still many that only treat the addiction. If you believe you may be suffering from a mental illness, it’s important to find out which treatment facilities offer mental health therapy. Otherwise, you may end up defeating your own recovery efforts.

Once you have received a comprehensive assessment, a treatment plan will be developed according to your needs. As with programs that only treat addiction, your daily schedule will include one on one counseling and group therapy sessions. However, some of those sessions will address your mental illness. Some types of therapy you’ll receive will include Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you recognize destructive thoughts and behaviors. In Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), individuals are counseled about self-harm, which can include anything from drug abuse to suicidal thoughts.

Your therapist will also address your mental health problems throughout this same period of time. You may begin with different forms of talk therapy, but you may also be required to take carefully prescribed medications to treat your illness. If this is the case, you will receive additional counseling to help you cope with needed medications without letting it lead to a relapse.

By the time you leave the facility, you’ll be prepared to live a healthier life and you’ll know how to resist your triggers. This will ensure you’ll be able to take needed medication without letting it lead you back into a cycle of addiction.

To learn more about treatment options, please look at The Recovery Village.