Mental Health and Drug Addiction
Why the Two Go Hand in Hand
It’s no secret that mental health issues are prevalent among people who struggle with drug addiction and depression. One often exacerbates the other—feelings of depression often lead to the person suffering to seek out coping mechanisms, which could include turning to substances for a quick fix and ultimately lead an addiction. Alternatively, if the person picks up substances first, they may have never felt sadness or anxiety in the first place, but once the drug or drink gets a hold of their life and begins wreaking havoc, the resulting consequences could be the cause of mental health decline. Either way, the two are inextricably linked, and often must be treated together for the most effective results.
When people who have a mental health issue seek treatment for substance abuse, they’re known as dual diagnosis patients. This term means that they need treatment to focus on both the mental health issue and substance abuse issue to begin working toward a healthy lifestyle. The most common mental health issues include depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, among many more.
Mental Health Concerns and the Brain
Anxiety is currently the most common mental disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States every year. This is often marked by general fear or worry, feelings of overwhelming panic, restlessness, and other uncomfortable symptoms. While it is treatable by doctors, sometimes people wish to avoid being stigmatized or are not properly diagnosed and take it upon themselves to self-medicate. On the other hand, they may be prescribed anxiety medication and begin to overuse it to alleviate their symptoms at a higher and quicker level when they do not get immediate relief.
The second most common mental illness is depression, and though researchers aren’t sure of how it works in the brain, they are certain that it is caused by a chemical imbalance. Feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin, aren’t as readily available in people with depression as they are in people who do not have depression. There are some antidepressant medications, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, that can help increase the availability of serotonin in the brain. There are other ways to increase serotonin as well, including exercise, therapy, and forming close relationships. When the brain lacks serotonin, the feelings of depression can be unbearable. It can be hard to relate to others, and may even become difficult to complete daily tasks, such as showering or going to work.
For many people who struggle with depression and or anxiety, drugs and alcohol are a welcome respite from the difficulties that occupy their minds. But, in a Catch 22, drugs and alcohol ultimately worsen their condition; while they might provide temporary relief, the side effects will actually increase the anxiety and depression. As mentioned before, consequences that stem from self-medicating will often lead to problems much greater than any the person started with—it is simply the nature of addiction to continue progressing until there is little or nothing left.
The Mental Health and Drug Addiction Cycle
People who are depressed and/or anxious are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than people who are not depressed. Some people who struggle with these disorders may use stimulants, which provide a surge of energy and can stimulate the brain. Others may choose to use depressants, such as alcohol. These numb the feelings of depression and can allow the user to dissociate from their struggles for some time. In the same way, substances that seem to bring relief for anxiety can cause even further anxiety.
People who are depressed and/or anxious may find greater emotional and mental relief from drugs and alcohol than people who are not. An emotional attachment may make them more likely to become addicted. While overcoming a mental health disorder and addiction at the same time can be difficult, it is possible. If you’re struggling with depression and addiction, you must take the first step to reach out for help.
Break the Cycle with Granite Recovery Centers
If you have a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety, and are interested in working toward a sober lifestyle, you may find treatment at NFA Behavioral Health in New Hampshire is just what you need. At NFABH, our caring counselors—many of whom have been in your shoes—will be able to help you understand the root causes of your addiction, and will help you take the first step toward a better life for yourself.
When you’re stuck in the throes of addiction, it can seem like there’s no way out, but recovery is possible.
Please give us a call today at 866.420.6222.