Dissociative identity disorder is a severe form of dissociation characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states. These different personality states arise outside of an individual’s conscious control and exert power over their behavior. Dissociative identity disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder, often co-occurs with substance use disorders.
Dissociative identity disorder typically results from early childhood trauma. Many people with the disorder engage in substance use to numb emotional pain or disassociate from reality, which can bring about an addiction.
Treatment can help people with co-occurring disorders learn ways to better manage their substance use and mental health disorders. However, once a person with dissociative identity disorder begins treatment, continued substance use can greatly hinder progress.
Drug Abuse as a Hindrance to Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment
Many treatments for substance use disorders are considered best practice for dissociative identity disorders, too. However, a clinician may not recognize dissociative identity disorder while a person is actively using drugs.
Strange behaviors associated with dissociative identity disorder, including severe lapses in memory and dramatic shifts in personality, may be attributed to drug use. Because of this, many people with these co-occurring disorders do not receive appropriate treatment until their substance use has ceased.
Substance use may also lower or eliminate the efficacy of medications used to treat dissociative identity disorder. If medications are ineffective, the progress of the patient can be stunted.
If a person does not feel treatment is making a difference, they are less likely to continue services. Substance use also creates the risk of stopping services prematurely, as people with substance use disorders are less likely to comply and follow through with treatment recommendations. The nature of substance use disorders reduces the likelihood that a person will engage continually in treatment.
Effects of Substance Abuse on Dissociative Identity Disorder Symptoms
The symptoms of substance use can mimic those of dissociative identity disorder. This can lead to dissociative identity disorder not being treated. A person with co-occurring dissociative identity and substance use disorders typically exhibits greater severity of symptoms.
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Alcohol
Gaps of time missing in memories is associated with both dissociative identity disorder and alcohol misuse. When both are present, it is difficult to determine if the cause of these memory lapses are from drinking in excess or from switching personalities. Drinking excessively may increase the frequency of that a person switches between different personality states.
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Marijuana
Marijuana can increase feelings of paranoia that may be damaging to a person with dissociative identity disorder. Anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana may increase the frequency that a person switches between different personality states and may cause more severe dissociation.
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Stimulants
Stimulants include both prescription and nonprescription drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, cocaine, methamphetamines and ecstasy. These drugs increase the activity of the central nervous system, which may cause a person with dissociative identity disorder to switch between personalities more quickly.
Statistics on Dissociative Identity Disorder and Drug Abuse
Currently, it’s estimated that 2 percent of people in the United States live with dissociative identity disorder. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there approximately 7.9 million people in the United States with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. It is also noted that people diagnosed with a mental health disorder are more likely than people without a psychological disorder to also be diagnosed with a substance use disorder.
Drug Abuse as a Cause of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Many people have incorrectly attributed dissociative identity disorder to substance use. Substance use does not cause dissociative identity disorder. Dissociative identity disorder develops following a traumatic event, rather than from using substances. Substance use is common in people with dissociative identity disorder but generally does not emerge prior to developing a dissociative identity disorder.
People with a substance use and mental health disorder can experience severe health problems that can cause long-term complications. However, treatment can help. The Recovery Village operates several rehab centers throughout the United States, and each facility caters to the specific needs of the individual. If you deal with addiction and a psychological disorder, contact The Recovery Village to find out how treatment can help you better manage your health problems.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.