Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment

Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment

If you’ve ever been in recovery for alcohol, drug or any type of substance abuse, you may have gone through some serious self reflection to help you figure out why you needed to quit in the first place. It is an incredibly important step during the recovery process, but often-times, the concept of mental health treatment is excluded from the addiction recovery process. So what’s the connection?

Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Alcohol and drug abuse are problem behaviors that can become an illness needing treatment. The most common connection stems from self-medicating (a.k.a. numbing out) to alleviate stress, anxiety or to manage mood swings. In some cases, mood disorders may develop after prolonged use of legal and illegal substances (like opiates, crystal meth, psychiatric medications, or alcohol), or not taking prescriptions as ordered by a physician.

The coexistence of both a mental health issue and a substance use disorder is called a co-occurring disorder (previously known as dual diagnosis). According to a SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug and Health 2017, 8.5 million adults in the U.S. suffer from co-occurring disorders and it’s most prevalent in adults 26-49, yet only 8.3% actually receive treatment for both conditions.

Identifying a co-occurring disorder and creating an integrated treatment is vital, as these individuals are at constant risk of relapse, and can lead to higher rates of suicide, homelessness, incarceration and sometimes, early death. When seeking treatment, ask the therapist or treatment center about exploring a co-occurring diagnosis and be sure it’s part of your treatment program if the answer is “yes.”

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Dr. Kathy Shafer specializes in the treatment of both addiction and mental health disorders stemming from anxiety or stress. In addition to providing individual therapy sessions and working with treatment centers, she also holds several group sessions for those on the journey to recovery. 

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