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The Complex Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

The relationship between substance abuse and mental illness is complex. The treatment of people with co-occurring substance abuse and mental illness is much more complicated than the treatment of either condition by itself. Many people with mental illness have ongoing substance abuse problems, and many people who abuse drugs and alcohol also experience mental illness.

Drugs and alcohol can be used as a form of self-medication for those battling substance abuse and mental illness. People with untreated cases like anxiety and depression may feel less pain under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, while drugs and alcohol may the mask the problem by providing relief and euphoria in the moment, the problems are still there and are often exacerbated. This happens both during acute intoxication when a person feels suicidal while heavily intoxicated as well as during substance withdrawal – like in the case of panic attacks during heroin withdrawal.

Males, individuals with lower socioeconomic status, military veterans and those with general medical illness are at increased risk of abusing drugs like marijuana, opiates and stimulants. Nearly one-third of people with all mental illnesses and approximately one-half of people with severe mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia also experience substance abuse. More than one-third of all alcohol abusers and more than one-half of all drug abusers are also battling mental illness.

Many people seek assistance in going through the process drug and alcohol cessation. This can include inpatient detox programs which can involve admission to a hospital—either a general hospital or a detox facility—and treatment with the appropriate medications to avoid drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

It is imperative that friends and family be of the utmost help in providing empathy and non-judgmental support of a loved one. With the proper support and the help of a quality drug and alcohol rehab treatment, those suffering from substance abuse and mental illness can take strides towards a successful recovery.

 

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