Addiction and Mental Illness Occur Together

Addicts are frequently depicted on screen as also having mental disorders and vice versa. And, to a degree, this is an accurate depiction. People who abuse drugs are frequently diagnosed with mental disorders.  In fact, relative to the general population, people who abuse and are addicted to drugs suffer from mood and anxiety disorders almost twice as often.

Disorder Co-morbidity: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg

Although drug abuse commonly co-exists with mental illness, one doesn’t necessarily cause the other, regardless of which came first. Research has been done that points to a number of possible reasons for their co-morbidity.

Drug abuse can bring about symptoms of other mental illnesses. The fact that some marijuana uses show an increased risk of having psychosis points to this.

People with some mental disorders might use drugs to self-medicate. Often, people with anxiety or depression might use alcohol, tobacco or other illicit drugs to alleviate or suppress their symptoms.

Common risk factors – Common genetic factors can cause a person to be susceptible to mental illness and to addiction. Environmental triggers such as stress or trauma and exposure to drugs at a young age can lead to drug abuse and mental disorders. Early exposure to drugs can cause developmental changes that can lead to an increased risk for mental illness; the reverse is also true.

Diagnosing and Treating Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

With the high frequency of mental disorders and drug abuse, it is important that a person be checked for one if he is being treated for other. There are behavioral therapies that have been shown to work well for patients with both conditions. These therapies can be tailored for people depending on their age, marital status, whether it be for groups or individuals.