The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration maintains a database of 11,023 substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States; only 4,683 of them are equipped to manage both addiction and mental illness.
Furthermore, some rehab centers will claim to have the capability to treat mental health disorders, but they won’t have the appropriate staff to back up those claims. While it is sufficient for licensed therapists to counsel those in recovery, addicts who have issues of co-occurring mental illness need to be treated under the care of an experienced psychiatrist or other prescribing physician, as the majority of cases will require some form of medication. Substance abuse is considered a mental health issue in its own right, but it isn’t viewed as an organic mental illness the way that disorders like schizophrenia and personality disorders are.
Substance abusers may drink or use every day or less frequently, but their drug and alcohol abuse can wreck their lives from the inside out. They might abuse hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, or milder substances like marijuana. Some are heavy drinkers while others identify more with functional alcoholism.
The World Health Organization describes a substance abuser as someone who engages in the use of harmful drugs or alcohol – substances that pose dangerous risks to health. You aren’t alone. As of 2012, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids accounted for 23.1 million addicts living in the United States.
It is not thought that one is born with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, unless of course there has been prenatal substance abuse. DrugWarFacts reports prenatal drug use was steady around 5.4 percent between 2012 and 2013 for women aged 15-44, and rates of prenatal alcohol use totaled 8.5 percent from 2011-2012. Aside from such circumstances, substance abuse starts out as a learned and voluntary behavior.
Depending on the substance being ingested, tolerance and addiction may form within mere weeks — as it does with some prescription drugs like benzodiazepines — or it could take a more prolonged period of use, as is usually seen with alcoholism. Addiction is treatable, but not curable.
Around 42.5 million Americans struggle with at least one mental health disorder, Newsweek reports. Among them, 29 percent of them abuse drugs or alcohol, per Helpguide. Mental illness may make it hard to trust your own feelings and intuition. You might have episodes of rage and violent mood swings or feel utterly low and unable to get out of bed. Mental health ailments don’t just impact your mind either.
- For example, individuals who suffer from depression can experience a wide range of physical symptoms, including:
- Physical aches and pains
- Loss of appetite or strong cravings and episodes of binge eating
- Lethargy and extreme fatigue
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Poor motor skills
- PTSD affects 5.2 million US citizens between the ages of 18 and 54, per Mental Health Wellness Week. Among all people afflicted with PTSD, 21-43 percent will abuse drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives, Medscape states. Many who are afflicted with this disorder have suffered extreme forms of trauma, such as rape or witnessing deaths in a war zone. That being said, PTSD can occur due to exposure to a frightening secondhand story told by a witness.
Like addiction, most forms of mental illness are not curable, but they are treatable.
Like addiction, most forms of mental illness are not curable, but they are treatable. There are exceptions, such as depression, which the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance notes 6.7 percent of the adult American population suffers from. Most cases of depression are not lifelong, but many are episodic and can come and go. Reoccurrences are viewed as relapse, just as falling off the wagon from drug abstinence would be.
It takes two
The Minnesota Center for Mental Health states that America is home to 9.2 million people who are battling both a mental illness and a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Treating substance abuse without proper attention to underlying mental health concerns is like treating the pain that stems from an infection but not the infection itself. Without getting to the root cause and dealing with the factors that led a person to a life of drug and alcohol abuse, the potential for relapse is high. Mental illnesses commonly diagnosed in substance abusers include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Reaching out for help
Co-occurring disorders are incredibly common, and you can get help for both substance abuse and mental illness at the same time. Join the others who have sought help and are now living happy and content lives in recovery. Combined treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders is complex and should only be attempted by the most skilled of professionals, like those on staff at The Recovery Village. Call today to find out how you can get well.