The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) states that there is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances” and that mental health disorder patients are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 44 percent of cocaine
  • 38 percent of alcohol
  • 40 percent of cigarettes

NBER also reports that people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 84 percent of cocaine
  • 69 percent of alcohol
  • 68 percent of cigarettes

Clearly, there is a connection between mental illness and substance abuse. This is called a dual diagnosis. Many rehabilitation centers treat for co-occurring disorders, which is what you need if you have both mental health issues and substance use disorder.

The highest occurrence of substance abuse in patients who suffer from mental illness is the use of substances for purposes of self-medication. Patients will abuse drugs and/or alcohol in order to treat their own untreated symptoms. There are so many different examples of this.

Have you ever known someone with social anxiety to drink in order to relax? This person is using alcohol to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone to abuse marijuana because they are depressed? This person is using marijuana to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone to take Adderall, cocaine, or meth to increase their energy and motivation? This person is using stimulants to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone who started taking benzodiazepines for panic or anxiety disorder but then it led to abuse? This person is abusing narcotic medications to self-medicate.

 

Unfortunately, for these patients, not only are they failing to treat these symptoms, but they are actually creating new symptoms. If you are in this situation, you have to get help with your substance abuse and your mental illness. The best thing you can do is seek treatment in a rehabilitation facility that treats dual diagnosis patients.

Remember, when it comes to substance abuse or mental illness, help is available to you if you are only willing to reach out and take it.

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