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Making the Connection: Co-occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

girl smoking drugs substance use disorder mental health

If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed that frequently in these blog posts, we refer to “co-occurring mental health disorders”—mental health issues that impact a person’s life at the same time they are dealing with a substance use disorder. We often emphasize how important it is to address mental health disorders alongside treatment for a substance use disorder because good mental health and lasting sobriety are tightly intertwined. 

As a rule, however, we write about this linkage in quite general terms. We have not always connected a specific substance use disorder to a specific mental health disorder. In this entry, we would like to provide some specificity in terms of the ways different kinds of mental health issues can interact with use of specific drugs. This is not an exercise in determining which disorder is the cause and which is the effect. Instead, it is an accounting of various mental health disorders and the substance use disorders that seem to be most frequently seen together.

Connecting Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) and Alcohol

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a substance use disorder centered on alcohol is often linked to antisocial personality disorder, a behavior pattern that shows “a lack of regard for and violation of the rights of others, deceit, manipulation, and impulsivity.” Individuals who develop an alcohol-related substance use disorder turn out to be twenty-one times more likely to struggle with ASPD.

Connecting Anxiety and Cocaine

People who use cocaine often describe the feelings of euphoria the drug can provide. But over time, those euphoric feelings provided by the powerful stimulant can shift into something else altogether. A cocaine user might begin to experience paranoia, which is a long way from euphoria. They might also find themselves dealing with insomnia or even hallucinations and an increased propensity to behave in violent ways. All of those things are symptomatic of an anxiety disorder. 

Connecting Depression and Heroin

Heroin is another drug that can deliver powerful feelings of pleasure. But while it is doing that, it starts to destroy the very parts of the brain that are responsible for delivering the experience of pleasure. As a person continues to use the drug, they may well discover that they seem incapable of feeling any sort of pleasure without heroin in their system. An inability to take pleasure in things that used to bring pleasure is a symptom of depression.

Connecting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Opioids

We often think about post-traumatic stress disorder as something that primarily affects veterans. But the reality is that anyone who has experienced a traumatic event of any kind—a natural disaster, a violent assault, a life-changing accident, and much more—can develop PTSD. Because the kinds of events that lead to PTSD often involve bodily injury, individuals who experience those events are frequently prescribed painkillers—including opioids. These powerful drugs can provide much needed relief from pain, but they can also be extremely addictive because users become attached to the feelings of calm and well-being the drugs can provide. When this happens, the likelihood of misuse and the development of a substance use disorder increases.

Connecting Schizophrenia and Marijuana

The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that around fifty percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia develop a substance use disorder. Additional studies seem to suggest a link between schizophrenia and marijuana use. Why that might be true is not entirely clear, but what does seem clear is that users experience similar symptoms as a result of marijuana use as they experience during a schizophrenic episode.

More Mixing and Matching

The examples we have provided above are by no means exhaustive. Other commonly connected mental health disorders and substance use disorders include:

  • Bipolar disorder and alcohol
  • Anxiety and mood disorders and alcohol
  • Schizophrenia and alcohol
  • Schizophrenia and poly-drug addiction
  • Borderline personality disorder with poly-drug addiction
  • Major depression and cocaine
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and amphetamines or methamphetamines

Here is a More Positive Combination: Bel Aire Recovery Center and You

It is not easy to overcome a substance use disorder or a mental health disorder all on your own. Fortunately, you do not have to.

Instead, you can seek treatment at Bel Aire Recovery Center in Kansas. We have the expertise and experience necessary to help you get sober and start your recovery journey with confidence. We are equally able to address co-occurring mental health disorders. By treating both kinds of disorders, we can help you reclaim your life and build on the gains you have made.

Looking for treatment near Wichita? For more information about programs offered at Bel Aire Recovery Center, contact us today. We are ready to help you transform your life.

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