Makana Path Blog

October 15, 2020

You Are Not Alone | Mental Health and Addiction

mental health and addiction

Mental health issues and addiction to drugs or alcohol are often intertwined. Treatment for mental health and addiction must address both to be truly effective. If you are one of the many people in this country experiencing mental illness or substance use disorders, know that you are not alone and you can get help.

Mental Illness is Common

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), millions of people in the US are affected by mental illness each year. It’s important to measure how common mental illness is, to understand its physical, social and financial impact — and so you can be reassured that no one is alone. NAMI statistics show that:

  • 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people)
  • 4.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2018 (11.4 million people)
  • 16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016 (7.7 million people)
  • 3.7% of U.S. adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness in 2018 (9.2 million people).

Mental Health and Substance Use

Mental health problems and substance use disorders are also common together. Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Certain illegal drugs can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem.
  • Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication.
  • Mental and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa. Their data shows high rates of co-existing substance use disorders and anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Substance use disorders also co-occur at high prevalence with mental disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychotic illness, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use disorders than the general population.

In addition, people with mental, personality, and substance use disorders are at increased risk for nonmedical use of prescription opioids. According to NIDA research, 43% of people in substance use disorder treatment for nonmedical use of prescription painkillers have a diagnosis or symptoms of mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety.

The Effects of Stress

Common risk factors can contribute to both mental illness and substance use and addiction. Stress, in particular, is a known risk factor for a range of mental disorders and provides one likely common link between the disease processes of substance use disorders and mental disorders.

Exposure to stressors is also a major risk factor for relapse to drug use after periods of recovery. Higher levels of stress have been shown to reduce activity in the prefrontal cortex and increase responsivity in the striatum, which leads to decreased behavioral control and increased impulsivity. Early life stress and chronic stress can cause long-term alterations in the HPA axis, which affects the brain circuits that are involved in motivation, learning, and adaptation, and are impaired in individuals with substance use disorders and other mental illnesses.

Treatment for Mental Health and Addiction

Someone with a mental health problem and substance use disorder must treat both issues. Treatment for both mental health problems and substance use disorders may include rehabilitation, medications, support groups, and talk therapy.

Integrated treatment for co-occurring drug use disorder and mental illness is consistently superior compared with separate treatment of each diagnosis. Integrated treatment for mental health and addiction often involves using cognitive behavioral therapy strategies to boost interpersonal and coping skills and using approaches that support motivation and functional recovery.

Makana Path Offers Intensive Healing

We want you to know that you are not alone and that help for your mental health and addiction is here. Makana Path’s intensive healing approach will help you regain control over your life. We also understand the challenges of staying at home and social distancing during COVID-19 and remain open to provide the help you need during these challenging times. To learn more about our Specialized Therapies, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-313-0978.

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