Substance Abuse and Mental Health | Co-Occurring Disorders

Perhaps no overarching societal problems are as heavily maligned as mental health and substance abuse disorders. Each is affected by misconceptions and generalizations about their sufferers and how the issues manifest themselves. If the public consciousness defined either, the results would be stereotypical at best. Many incorrectly think that substance abuse is completely a choice, one made by derelict people who are the dregs of society, no less. Mental health problems, on the other hand, are also viewed as byproducts of personal decisions: mixed with doses of fear, confusion, and Othering to make the stigma extra thorough. Slowly but surely, these outdated definitions and perspectives are giving way to empathy, compassion, and, most importantly of all, bias-free help.

Unsurprisingly, mental health and substance abuse are often cut from the same cloth. To fully comprehend their common threads, one must look at each separately before doing so collectively.  

Substance Abuse and Mental Health | Substance Abuse Psychology
Mental Health: Mental health is an enigma. The concept is far less concrete than physical health, which comes with obvious action-to-reaction situations based on our behavior. For example, most people are aware that leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating a non-nutritious diet will lead to tangible results such as weight gain. Additionally, every person is usually also aware that obesity is a detriment to one’s health. Seeing the causes and effects are much more straightforward with physical health. The same cannot be said for psychological health. The negative impact that stress has on the mind and body is mostly ethereal and unobservable, as is a lack of proper sleep. The physical responses are overt — anxiousness, grogginess, irritability — but how mental health is affected is not so clear-cut. On top of lack of understanding comes outright evasion practices. Simply put, no one wishes to talk about mental health. The subject is shunned; some might even consider it borderline taboo. A lot of this apprehension can be chalked up to the aforementioned lack of education on the matter. People simply do not know enough about the topic to have a fruitful dialogue. However, this only gets to a part of the problem. Consciousness is far and away one of the most personal things a person experiences in life. It is complex, mysterious, intimate, and the inner workings of which most individuals would rather keep to themselves. Time and time again, physicians and psychologists have pointed out the dangers of such isolation. While everyone has aspects they’d rather not share, being open about one’s mental health is vital to maintaining it. If talking about mental health is uneasy business, then mental health disorders are on a whole other level entirely. Just about everyone is familiar with their names: anxiety, PTSD, OCD, social anxiety disorder, and depression among others. However, they may not be aware of how such issues come about in the first place. As with all matters dealing with mental health, the origins are complicated. Genetics, past trauma, early life, and many more factors can lead to the development of mental health problems.   Substance Abuse: If it is being used to get high, chances are it can be considered a substance. This is an overly simplified definition, but it offers a general idea of what constitutes a substance or what does not. Drugs of every shape, size, and chemical composition are classified as substances, as are items such as alcohol and even tobacco. The products will range in potency and habit-forming potential but, with frequent and long-term use, each is likely to result in dependence and addiction. Millions must deal with the daily struggle of substance use and abuse. Like mental health problems, anyone can be affected, but similar risk factors lead some to be more susceptible than others. The patterned misuse of dangerous compounds can have myriad outcomes, each more devastating than the last. Finances can be left in shambles to support the habit, relationships can be ruined, and overdoses and death are all too common. Together, mental health and substance abuse lead to unwelcome conclusions. Each has the ability to make the other worse. If someone uses certain substances, such as hallucinogenic deliriants, the paranoid state that characterizes the experience can lead to permanent psychosis. While this is a more extreme example, the precedent holds true. Studies have shown that anything from ecstasy to marijuana can trigger underlying mental health problems that may not have otherwise become an issue, or even have come to light. More often than not, the reverse scenario is true: mental health disorders lead to substance abuse. Substances have a long track record of alleviating uncomfortable emotional and mental feelings. Doing so is not medically recommended; substance use is a temporary reprieve that actually can exacerbate psychological ailments. Treating mental health and substance abuse requires co-occurring methods to tackle both problems head-on. As one can imagine, recovering from substance use comes with an asterisk if the underlying mental disorder isn’t addressed. It’s the classic treating the symptom, not the disease scenario — and it leads to unsuccessful results. Of the 20.8 million people with a substance abuse problem in 2015, 8.9 million of them had a co-occurring mental health crisis, too. This is not an isolated issue by any stretch of the imagination. And treating the issues themselves in isolation truly does more harm than good. Luckily, two-prong services are offered at almost every rehabilitation center in today’s world.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health | Co-Occurring Disorders
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health | Co-Occurring Disorders was last modified: January 15th, 2018 by The Recovery Village