Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Disease and disorder often have a sneaky way of showing up in life. Sometimes they show up all of the sudden, while other tim

Feb 22

Disease and disorder often have a sneaky way of showing up in life. Sometimes they show up all of the sudden, while other times sickness’ gradually show themselves- it just depends. One way or another though, many wake up one day and find themselves having to become accustomed to such unpleasantry. So some of us just scratch our heads and think to ourselves, “Of all the surprises life could send my way, it has to be this.”

Yet wallowing in pity and complaining of how unfair the world it will change nothing. It’s about taking action. When there’s nothing you can do and you can’t do anything about that, you then do what you can. Substance abuse and mental illness would both like to convince us that we can’t go on like in this capacity, but that’s disease talking. The opposite of disease would be health. The idea of health challenges us to become a better version of ourselves. To become well! To improve! To take action!

Substance abuse and mental illness often go hand-in-hand, which can create challenges in treating both successfully. It is important for patients dealing with both issues to get an accurate dual diagnosis in order to ensure the best possible treatment on both fronts. At Pasadena Recovery Center we understand the intricacies and complexities of a dual diagnosis, which is why we offer a specialized inpatient treatment program for patients that fall into this category.

Prevalence of a Dual Diagnosis

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, studies have found a significant percentage (around 50 percent) of individuals with a severe mental illness also have a substance abuse problem. The Journal of the American Medical Association also reported that 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have a serious mental illness. The problem is prevalent, which is why treatment programs that target a dual diagnosis are so important.

NAMI also estimates that the percentages actually go up for people battling the most severe types of mental illness. Men are more likely to have a dual diagnosis than women, particularly those in a lower socioeconomic status or those that have served in the military. Despite who’s more prone to what, substance abuse and mental illness have taken a hold on the United States more or less. Addiction is addiction regardless of the drug du jour. However, mental illness is very prevalent in multiple facades. Some of those forms include:

  • Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
  • Anxiety disorders (panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Personality disorders (antisocial, borderline, narcissistic)

The reality of it is those afflicted with substance abuse and mental illness will be put through trying times- there’s no debating that. Alcoholism, just like cancer, clinical depression, or anxiety disorder, is a sickness that latches onto the mind while manipulating all thought process’. Even worse is that most the time substance abuse and mental illness come together- and not like the Beatles. Hand in hand is one thing, but showing up at the same time can have some seeing stars.

Cause and Effect

While it is relatively easy to see a connection between substance abuse and mental illness, it is much more difficult to assign a cause and effect to the trend. For many that receive a dual diagnosis, the mental illness preceded the substance abuse. These individuals have done what is called “self-medicate,” which is to try to manage symptoms of mental illness with use of drugs or alcohol.

On the other hand, substance abuse can increase the risk for a mental illness or make a current condition worse. Substance abuse may trigger the onset of symptoms of mental illness, such as paranoia or depression. In some cases, poor decisions or traumatic events that occur while a person is under the influence of a substance can lead to a mental disorder like anxiety or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

Taking Action

Integrated intervention is the most effective way to approach an individual dealing with both substance abuse and mental illness. This involves treating the mental disorder and alcoholic thinking concurrently. Attempting to treat one without working on the other is completely counterproductive. Being that substance abuse feeds into mental illness and vice versa, it’d be wise to try and nip both in the bud.

However, alcoholic thinking is usually the more immediate issue due to the life-threatening decisions it causes most to make.

Everybody is different and everybody’s body and minds are different too, but with this being said, not everybody will get the same reaction from the healing process. Some will respond quicker to positive stimuli, others will have try and fail a few times before understanding the big picture.

Rest assured that it’s just a matter of a little introspection and balance of the equilibrium. A little self-awareness and being properly medicated will make the world of a difference. Then after a little perseverance, the mind will heal in ways that we could never imagine. Substance abuse and mental illness are indeed very prevalent in today’s world, but they don’t have to be.

Complications and Challenges

No matter how or why the dual diagnosis occurred, it can be challenging to treat both conditions successfully. For many patients, substance abuse must be addressed first, before treatment for mental illness can begin. Without this sequence, patients may have difficulty sticking with a medication regimen or treatment program to effectively deal with their mental disorder.

While treatment of a dual diagnosis is complex, it is not impossible. At Pasadena Recovery Center, we offer an inpatient program that combines medication maintenance, education about mental illness and the 12-steps of sobriety. With individual and group therapy and counseling, we can help you overcome your substance abuse while learning to cope successfully with your mental illness. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need help, please call 1-866-663-3030 or visit Our teams of specialists are waiting to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.

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