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Statistics, facts, and the overall numbers all add up. They don’t lie! It’s an unfortunate truth that addiction and mental illness often overlap. According to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, almost 9 million people suffer from a co-occurring disorder. Out of the roughly 9 million people with this type of disorder, only around 7% of them actually get treatment for both conditions. Tragically, nearly 60 percent receive actually no treatment whatsoever and continue to suffer from their co-occurring disorder.

Understand More About Comorbidity

When there are two conditions that co-exist together, it is often referred to as comorbidity. Such as a specific mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder for instance. For many people that suffer from addictions, there is more often than not, typically an underlying mental health issue as well needing to be addressed. Ironically enough, while neither condition actually causes the other, they still most often exist with one another. Even more so, one condition can even exacerbate (intensify) the symptoms of the other.   

To simplify comorbidity is a chronic brain disorder which explains blatantly why this is possible. In further explanation when someone suffers from an addiction, their brain is permanently rewired by the drugs or alcohol they are abusing. In effect it causes the brain to operate differently prior to substance abuse.

Thinking of it just like diabetes or heart disease, individuals suffering from addiction must live and manage this condition for the rest of their life. Which is difficult, but possible with the right support, treatment, and commitment. Though, it’s not as simplistic as stopping the drug use or alcohol itself. Unfortunately, for many stopping, which we call detoxing, can become simply impossible. That step alone for some is sadly unobtainable. 

Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, are impacted, being it’s the same part of the brain where changes take place due to drug and alcohol abuse which makes changes in the brain. These changes are what create a high rate of comorbidity mental illnesses and addictions, which shouldn’t be surprising. If anything the comorbidity should if anything be expected. Nevertheless, the link is still complex, some mental health issues do increase the risk factors for substance abuse. With that in consideration, some people with mental illnesses will abuse substances to cope with their suffrage and pain stemming from their mental health issues. 

In understanding the complexity involving the comorbidity between addiction and mental health if you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and support you, contact us today.

Understanding Why Addiction Co-Occurs with Mental Illness

The high rates of comorbidity between addiction and mental illness are high doesn’t necessarily justify or explain one caused by the other. Regardless if mental illness appeared first or addiction or perhaps vice versa, it makes no difference. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, here are the number of factors that need to be considered: For instance:

  • One or more symptoms of another mental illness can be caused by drug abuse. There is an increased risk of psychosis in some marijuana users 
  • Self-medicating often leads to drug and alcohol abuse due to mental disorders. Oftentimes the nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products will decrease schizophrenia symptoms and might improve cognition, for example

There’s conclusive evidence that indicates that mental illnesses including addictions are the cause of underlying unknown birth deficits, genetic influences, and/or exposure even to trauma early in life. 

Vulnerability to addiction can easily be attributed to genetics. For instance, it is estimated that 40 to 60 percent is attributed. In the human genome, in several regions, it has been linked to an increased risk of mental illness, including substance abuse.

As you are developing, growing, and maturing, especially in your teenage years there is another common factor. It’s been shown that addiction and mental health issues during those years is when symptoms usually appear. Teenagers are more prone to act impulsively and that includes the involvement of taking more risks. These behaviors amongst teens, unfortunately, can influence not only mental disorders but also addiction. 

Traumatization due physically or emotionally is at a much higher risk of substance abuse disorders. There’s a concerning connection for veterans particularly so who are returning from deployment. Statistically speaking, one in five military servicemen and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression. It is also suggested by some studies that half of the veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD also have some kind of co-occurring substance abuse problem as well.

How is Mental Health Related to Addiction

Difficulty In Diagnosing Both Conditions

There are many factors that explain the difficulty behind the reasoning in diagnosing both conditions. Co-occurring disorders can be difficult in itself to diagnose just simply due to their complexity and their variant in severity. As result, people can receive treatment for one disorder while the other disorder remains untreated. This situation unfortunately isn’t uncommon. You may wonder how this can happen, and it can easily happen because the symptoms can be quite similar in that they overlap. To simplify even more, both addiction and mental health issues have similar attributes being biological, psychological, and even social components. 

In addition, another reason there’s inadequate training or screening which leads to the consequences of the improper or undiagnosed. Which conclusively goes untreated, undertreated, or not treated altogether. 

The consequences of the improper treatment or lack thereof of a co-occurring disorder can lead to a much higher likelihood of homelessness. Those also may experience legality issues and find themselves spending jail time. It’s also not uncommon for those to have medical illnesses, and sadly enough commit suicide.

Those who suffer from mental health issues and abuse drugs and alcohol along with other substances have ultimately the most difficult time achieving lasting sobriety.

Comorbidity Treatment Options 

Conditions involving co-occurring conditions need to be treated at the same time research suggests predicting the best outcome. Integrated treatment for those who have an addiction and mental health issues serves them the best. Integrated treatment involving doctors, counselors, and case managers, can address and treat both disorders at the same time with their knowledge and experience. This formulation does in fact lower treatment costs and helps make a better outcome for patients. 

To improve your or your loved one’s recovery and quality of life early detection, intervention, and treatment are imperative if possible. People who have both mental health and addiction will often have symptoms that are more severe, persistent, and also resistant to treatment. It’s important to be aware of that. Especially in contrast to those who have either disorder alone. Knowing and understanding this, maintaining sobriety can be difficult for them. 

Start Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Now

Part of success is having a proper and correct diagnosis for both a mental health and addiction issue. Upon this, their chance of recovery greatly and abundantly increases. However, there still needs to be an increased awareness of comorbidity to take place. All too often, one or the other condition goes undiagnosed and untreated, for various reasons. Only through more skillful recognition and better treatment for co-existing conditions will it improve, it will only then improve and reduce the negative social stigma. The social stigma in which makes people so reluctant to pursue the treatment that they need to better their lives. 

Take the first step by contacting our Harmony Healing NJ team today. Start receiving quality mental health and addiction treatment that you need in order to take control and improve your life now, today.