Addiction often goes hand in hand with mental illness – both need to be addressed

Natalie has struggled with methamphetamine use disorder for more than nine years.

She was one of the lucky few who received treatment to address her addiction, yet this help felt incomplete. Like many people trying to recover from substance use disorders, I eventually started taking methamphetamine again.

Eventually, Natalie was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), one of the most common mental disorders among young adults. She began treatment for her ADHD as well as her methamphetamine addiction, which made her long-term recovery a reality.

“Adding Adderall really changed my life,” she said. “Looking back, it stands to reason that I was treating myself with ADHD and was not diagnosed. I found it very frustrating that so many people arranged their lives while I struggled to perform daily tasks. In part, this is what led to my relapse. “.

It is well known that recovering from drug addiction is difficult. Relapses are common. Too often, a critical component is overlooked: concurrent mental health states. Treating mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, and others with medication or other therapies is critical to addressing the addiction and overdose crisis that now kills more than 100,000 people annually.

Substance use disorders often accompany other mental illnesses. Half of people with substance use disorder have had another mental illness at some point, and vice versa.

For many people, drug and alcohol problems begin as self-treatment: using substances to deal with temporary stress or manage symptoms of chronic mental health problems they may not even know they have. The use of drugs, especially alcohol, can be a socially acceptable way to deal with negative emotions.

Surveys show that alcohol use has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased alcohol use Parents are nervous. Research has also linked the problem of alcohol use in college students to self-treatment of social anxiety. Likewise, people with untreated depression may discover that opioids or stimulants temporarily boost their mood and use them for this purpose.

Fragmented and hard-to-reach mental health care means that these conditions and addictions often go untreated. In some societies, it is easier to obtain illicit drugs than adequate medical mental health care, which increases the potential for addiction and other mental illnesses.

But substance use to treat mental illness can start a difficult cycle. Substance use to manage mental illness can lead to addiction and can, in turn, exacerbate the original mental illness. Regular use of drugs or alcohol causes the brain to adapt to that substance – known as a dependency. Effectively, the brain recycles its own neurotransmitter systems on which drugs act. A person trying to relieve anxiety through drug use will feel worse most of the time, because their brain is now dependent on the drug for relief.

Racism and other forms of discrimination, isolation, childhood trauma, poverty, and lack of access to education and health care can all play a role in increasing the risk of mental illness and substance use disorders. The stigma associated with both substance use disorders and mental illness exacerbates these factors — making a person with mental illness and addiction more isolated and vulnerable, and less likely to seek treatment.

The intertwining of mental illness and substance use disorders requires urgent action. Efforts to reverse the addiction and overdose crisis must be multifaceted, with mental illness in mind. We have powerful and proven addiction treatment tools, especially Opioid use disorder. Harm reduction strategies, when implemented, can stop deaths from overdose. But expanded screening and care for mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other components of a successful response to the current addiction and overdose crises should be.

Prevention is possible if investments are made. Opportunities to reduce risk can begin early in life, because substance use disorders and other mental illnesses share common risk and prevention factors. Interventions that begin during the prenatal period and follow through adolescence and young adulthood can help avoid a range of negative outcomes later in life. Furthermore it, many studies The return on investment in prevention shows that communities can save not only lives, but money as well by investing in prevention programmes.

Examination is equally important. Earlier this year, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended that primary care physicians screen all Adult And the teenager Depressed patients, due to its low cost and the possibility of benefiting from it. Screening for mental health conditions should become part of standard practice along with screening for substance use and substance use disorders to tailor interventions to treat patients’ unique needs and increase the likelihood of recovery.

Dr. Nora Volkow is director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDA is the world’s largest funder of research into the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

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