Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Substance Use. What’s the Connection?
A co-occurring disorder is one where there is an existence of both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 43.6 million Americans over the age of 18 suffered from a type of mental illness, and 20.2 million had a substance use disorder. Of these, approximately 7.9 million adults suffered from a co-occurring disorder.
Research has shown that there is a definite connection between mental health disorders and the use of addictive substances. However, the connection between the two still raises questions. As research continues, medical professionals have linked the two through a few key indicators.
- A mental health disorder can lead to drug abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse claims those who have a mental illness may use drugs as a form of self-medication; however; the symptoms of the mental illness often return and sometimes stronger. Depression, anxiety, and psychosis are all common reasons for mentally ill individuals to self-medicate.
- Individuals suffering from a mental illness may abuse drugs or alcohol to alleviate medication side effects. Often medications for mental health disorder may produce unpleasant side effects, such as schizophrenia medication that causes depression. An individual may use drugs or alcohol to combat those effects.
- Drug abuse can cause individuals to experience one or more symptoms of a mental illness. Prolonged drug abuse can cause the chemicals in the brain that control mood and other behaviors to alter. Some alterations can lead to depression or anxiety causing an individual to continue the abuse.
- Individuals with high-risk factors increase their chance with substance abuse. Those who already present mental health risk factors such as genetics, brain deficits, and/or traumatic experiences can be “pushed” into a mental illness with prolonged substance abuse.
- Adolescent substance abuse can lead to a mental health disorder in later years. Substance abuse can alter the cognitive and social development during adolescence. Altering these factors can result in a mental health disorder in later years.
For many families, seeing a loved one suffer from a co-occurring disorder is difficult. Some families can accept the mental health diagnosis, but not the substance abuse they may be connected. They often see the substance use as a sign of defiant behavior. Other families may accept the substance use, but find it hard to accept that their relative has a mental health problem or vice versa. Some families struggle to understand that concurrent disorders are a relapsing condition and not an illness with a cure.
Pasadena Villa treats issues with co-occurring substance abuse with the most advanced and effective methods today. Using our Social Integration Methodology, our professional staff observes and interacts with residents in real life situations to help ensure customized treatment plans are as accurate and effective as possible. Using recreational, social and life-skills activities within the community, in conjunction with individual, group and family therapy, we have been successful in assimilating individuals back into everyday life and reaching the highest level of individual functioning possible. Pasadena Villa is committed to offering the highest quality clinical services; within a physical environment that promotes health/well-being, recovery, and personal motivation.
It is important to remember that you are never alone. Pasadena Villa is also available to offer help. If you or a loved one would like more information on mental health or co-occurring substance use disorders, please call us at 877-845-5235 or complete our contact form. We currently offer treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Raleigh, North Carolina.