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Mental Illnesses are Linked to Drug use and Addiction

According to the National Bureau of Economics, people who suffer from psychiatric disorders are up to three times as likely to use drugs. Those diagnosed with mental illness actually make up a majority percentage of cigarette, alcohol, and cocaine abusers, at 69 percent, 68 percent and 84 percent, respectively.

These statistics are mirrored in the substance abuse community, where about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers are reported to have a mental illness. This phenomenon has been labeled as dual diagnosis.

In addition to strong correlation, mental illness and substance involvement tend to play off each other, increasing the severity of both conditions. That is why although researchers agree upon this correlation, there is much debate over the definite causes of drug abuse in mental illness, or vice versa.

Genetics, convenience and environment are all considered leading factors that contribute to mental disorder and substance involvement. Research from the the BRAINLab at Washington University in St. Louis reports: “If a mental illness, like depression, runs in your family, you are presumed at risk of that disorder. But we find that having a genetic predisposition to mental illness also places that person at risk for substance use and addiction.”

They also found that “genetic risk for both schizophrenia and depression are associated with cannabis and cocaine involvement.”

Neuroscience News suggests that environmental factors including stress, peers, neighborhood and trauma must also be considered. Understanding how the leading factors correlate with each other also helps to improve methods of prevention and intervention.

Ultimately, a better understanding may help guide the development of more effective prevention and treatment efforts decades in the future. Self-medication is not the only resort or recommended avenue for people with dual diagnosis. The National Alliance on Mental Illness cites that the most effective detoxification treatment methods begin with inpatient rehabilitation and involve medical supplementation, emotional and family support and psychotherapy.


Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.

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