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Dealing With Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Substance abuse issues and mental health disorders often go hand in hand. When a person with a diagnosed mental disorder is also diagnosed with addiction, it is known as a co-occurring disorder.

How Do I Know If I Have A Co-Occurring Disorder?

Determining whether or not you have a substance abuse and mental health disorder isn’t always easy. Sometimes substance abuse is a way to mask or self-medicate mental health problems. Sometimes symptoms of substance abuse can look like mental health issues. These factors can make it tricky to diagnose the problem.

Because substance abuse and mental health are closely related, it isn’t uncommon for someone who is newly clean and sober to find out for the first time that they have a mental health condition. For example, they may find out that they have chronic anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. It may be that drinking and using has been a way to self-medicate those symptoms.

How Does Substance Abuse Affect Mental Illness?

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness of any kind, it is advisable to avoid alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and other drugs can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness, trigger symptoms and impact your ability to take care of yourself.

Drugs and alcohol also interfere with the effectiveness of medication, and can also negatively interact with your medication, causing serious problems.

Does Substance Abuse Cause Mental Health Problems?

It can. Using drugs and alcohol has an impact on brain chemistry in any user. If you have any type of predisposition to mental illness, for example, a genetic marker for bipolar disorder, drug use can trigger the illness.

For people who use drugs or alcohol long-term, mental health can be affected. If you have been drinking for a number of years, or doing other drugs, their use may ultimately cause severe depression and anxiety. In some cases, drug use can cause paranoia and delusions, such as is common with methamphetamines. Although these symptoms generally go away after use has stopped, there are cases where the person does not fully recover.

How Do I Know If I Have A Problem?

If you are wondering whether or not you have a substance abuse problem, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you ever find yourself wondering if you should cut down on your drinking or using?
  • Have you tried to quit and weren’t able to?
  • Does your drinking or using interfere with work or daily responsibilities?
  • Has your family expressed concerned over your using?
  • Have you blacked out or gotten a DUI?

Getting Help

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and are seeking help for substance abuse it is important that both conditions are addressed. Counseling, medication and treatment for addiction can help.

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and are seeking help for substance abuse it is important that both conditions are addressed. Counseling, medication and treatment for addiction can help.