The use of drugs and alcohol in individuals suffering from a
form of mental illness has been well documented and studied over the
years, but it is very difficult to state definitively whether one causes the
other. While it’s true people living with mental illness are more at risk
for addiction if they use substances to self-medicate, the state of one’s
mental health is not necessarily a predictor of abuse. There is a link,
however, and it can be a devastating one for the affected individuals and their
The reasons for substance abuse vary from person to person;
some are genetically inclined toward risky behaviors and coping mechanisms,
while others are affected by their environment.
estimated that 40-60 percent of an individual's vulnerability to addiction is
attributable to genetics…But genes can also act indirectly by altering how an
individual responds to stress or by increasing the likelihood of risk-taking
and novelty-seeking behaviors…” reads an article on DrugAbuse.gov.
Some substance abuse leads to changes in the brain, causing
mood disorders such as depression. This can make it very difficult for medical
professionals to diagnose one or the other, because substances can mask certain
disorders with similar symptoms. In some cases, substances cause severe changes
and lead to the individual taking still more drugs to cope with them, a
ruthless cycle that leaves a trail of confusion, guilt, and health risks.
Some of the most common mental health issues associated with substance abuse are
depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. These disorders can
cause impaired judgment, impulsive behavior, and the desire to take risks, sometimes
in order to cope with their thoughts or feelings. It is important for the
individual to seek professional care in order to be diagnosed properly, so that
treatment can be tailored. For instance, bipolar disorder is very complex and
often can’t be diagnosed during childhood or teen years because the symptoms
can mimic normal emotional development. Substance abuse can make it difficult
to uncover because drugs and alcohol affect emotions and behavior, causing
manic mood swings and bouts of depression.
It’s important for individuals to know what to look for
where substance abuse and mental health disorders are concerned. Some common
Withdrawing from social activities
Experiencing manic periods of elation,
then swiftly dropping into low gear
A decline in physical appearance or
Bouts of rage or violence
A decline in performance at work or
Sleeping too much or too little; same
Lack of joy in things that once made
If your loved one is experiencing these behaviors, it may be
time to start a conversation. Offer your help without accusatory
statements and let them know they are not alone. Forming a support system is
the best way to ensure your loved one will find success in treatment.
enjoys serving the
public as a writer for PublicHealthCorps.org.
* Photo via Pixabay by Unsplash
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