Link Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

/ / Drug Addiction, Mental Illness, Treatment and Recovery

Treatment professionals have long recognized a causal link between active substance abuse and the exacerbation of mental health symptoms. Similarly, those treating addiction have observed a patient’s drug use and associated problems suddenly escalate when the patient goes off of a needed psychotropic medication. That these two illnesses are connected is no great surprise.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse just published the findings of a new study which reinforces the belief that severe mental illness, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, poses a higher risk of substance abuse. Previous research showed that people suffering from anxiety or mood disorders were twice as likely to also suffer from a substance abuse disorder. The new study, based on 9142 people diagnosed with a mental health illness, determined that they were 4 times more likely to be heavy alcohol users, 3.5 times more likely to be regular marijuana users, and 5.1 times more likely to be daily smokers.

Previous research also found that those diagnosed with schizophrenia have a shorter life expectancy than the general population. It has been theorized that chronic cigarette smoking is likely tied to the higher mortality rates among those with schizophrenia.

In effective drug treatment programs, it is important that co-occurring disorders like depression or schizophrenia be properly diagnosed and treated. Some comprehensive treatment programs are able to offer in-house psychiatric & medication management services. Those that do not have in-house psychiatric services can usually make the appropriate referral to another provider for this additional care. Failing to address co-occurring psychiatric issues can significantly compromise a patient’s overall addiction recovery effort.