The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that half the people who deal with mental illness in their lives will also develop a substance use disorder. The reverse is also true. Many individuals who develop a substance use disorder also suffer from psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others.
Substance Use and Anxiety
After years of research, data shows high rates of substance use co-occurring with anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Addiction specialists have suggested three primary pathways which could be responsible for these comorbidities. They are:
Self-Medication – Individuals take increasing amounts of drugs or alcohol to manage symptoms of their Anxiety. An anxiety disorder leads to a substance use disorder.
Substance-Induced – Drug or alcohol use exacerbates symptoms of anxiety. Substance use leads to anxiety.
Variable Pathway – Genetics or other sensitivities may result in a combination of substance use disorder and psychiatric disorders.
Regardless of how a person develops a dual diagnosis, all of these pathways lead to a mutual maintenance pattern. In this instance, each disorder perpetuates the other. This maintenance pattern has implications for the treatment of comorbid anxiety and substance use disorders.
Depression and Addiction
Mood disorders are also often intertwined with addiction. Psychiatric disorders including major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, and atypical depression may all connect with a co-occurring substance use disorder.
Many people turn to drugs or alcohol in order to alleviate symptoms of their mental illness. Unfortunately, ongoing substance use can actually make them feel worse. Using depressants, such as alcohol and opioids, worsens symptoms of depression like sluggishness, lethargy, and hopelessness.
Clinical depression and addiction combine can pose a high risk of self-harm, injury, and suicide. These conditions also weaken the immune system and a person’s overall health, meaning that they are more vulnerable to physical ailments and illness.
Substance Use and Psychosis
Psychotic disorders like schizophrenia also frequently co-occur with substance use. These psychiatric disorders consist of positive symptoms – hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder – and negative symptoms – mood symptoms, social isolation, cognitive deficits, and reduced motivation.
A recent study of patients experiencing their first psychotic episode found a 74% lifetime prevalence of a substance use disorder. Further research found that the risk of substance use was 4.6 times higher in patients with schizophrenia than in the general population.
Much attention has been given to the relationship between substance use, psychotic symptoms, and psychotic disorders. There are two hypotheses about how this works. They are:
Drug use triggers psychotic symptoms in individuals with an underlying predisposition to psychosis.
Exposure to recreational drug use creates psychotic symptoms independent of any underlying predisposition.
While researchers continue to debate which of these is most valid, the result is the same. A combination of psychotic symptoms and addiction can result in a complex path to treatment – one which requires expertise and care.
Treatment for Psychiatric Disorders and Addiction
Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment is available. At Beach House, we are highly skilled in helping individuals to overcome both psychiatric disorders and addiction. Our staff members have years of specialized training in mental health, ensuring that each client receives the highest level of care for their co-occurring disorders.
In order for psychiatric disorders and addiction to be successfully treated, both must be addressed simultaneously. Our team is standing by to provide comprehensive, holistic care. We provide individual and group therapy sessions rooted in clinically sophisticated modalities.
To learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment, contact Beach House today.