The Discovery House Blog

Substance Abuse Therapy and the Role of Mental Illness

May 2, 2016 Addiction Education

You might be wondering why mental illness should be considered in substance abuse therapy but truth be told, mental illness is a very real problem in the United States. In fact, studies suggest that as many as 50 million adults in the U.S. have some type of mental illness and research indicates that drug and alcohol addiction go hand in hand with mental illnesses. This can mean anything from mild depression to schizophrenia to borderline personality disorder. Because mental illness is so disturbing to the human mind, afflicted people search for ways to quiet that mind. Often, this search leads to mental illness and substance abuse and, ultimately, the destructive consequences that go along with it.

Substance Abuse Therapy and Mental Illness

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The Stigma of Substance Addiction and Mental Illness

There is absolutely no shame in having a mental illness or mood disorder, although such a condition is still very much stigmatized by society. Afflictions that affect the brain are just as serious as those that affect the body –like diabetes, for example. Furthermore, mental illness is beyond the control of the person who has it, just like diabetes. It should never be viewed as weakness or a lack of moral character.

Dual Diagnosis Defined

When someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness and a drug or alcohol addiction, he or she is considered to have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. As many as 10 million Americans have both a mental and substance abuse disorder. This creates a unique problem. All too often, because addiction/alcoholism is so prevalent in a person’s life when they finally seek help, health care professionals are only able to identify and treat that particular problem. The mental illness can go undiagnosed for years, especially if the person continues to relapse.

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Co-occurring Disorders in Inpatient Drug Rehab

If the mental illness goes untreated, the diseased person is only receiving care for half of their problem. The other problem still exists and is likely causing untold suffering and continued relapses. This is because the symptoms of mental illness can cause so much discomfort, a person will return again and again to their drug of choice to find relief. In order for someone with a mental illness and a substance abuse problem to get help, both issues must be addressed.

Why Integrated Drug Addiction Treatment is Important

Mental illness is characterized by the inability to control moods, thoughts, and behaviors. When someone who is mentally ill starts abusing drugs and alcohol, this is called self-medicating. Rather than taking medications prescribed by a psychologist, addicts and alcoholics with mental heath issues often use mind-altering substances to deal with these aspects of their illness.

The chemicals found in these substances control the user’s mood, thoughts, and behaviors. Although it might seem strange, the effect these chemicals have on the brain can cause the user to be more comforted than if he or she were taking legitimate meds. After all, the person is able to control their illness in the sense that they know what to expect if they smoke crack or drink booze. People with mental illness often say they feel as though their lives are dictated by their moods, which change from minute to minute or day to day. Addiction is a constant.

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Recovery from Drug Addiction and Dual Diagnosis is Possible

If you’ve been seeking sobriety for years but have been unable to achieve any real length of continued clean time, you may need to see a mental health professional. It is quite possible you have a dual diagnosis or some other underlying issue that has not been treated. The good news is; there is hope. With the right medication, in conjunction with substance abuse therapy and continued support, those with even the most severe cases of mental illness can stay sober and find a new way to live.

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