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Does substance abuse cause mental health problems?

In this blog we look at the relationship between alcohol and drug abuse and mental health. It’s important to note this isn’t a medical article on mental illness.  If you are looking for help and support with a mental health issue please don’t self diagnose or self-medicate, get in touch with us and our team of experts can point you in the right direction for medical help

Substance abuse and mental health problems 

The correlation between mental health and substance abuse is a strong one. 

‘Half of the people with drug dependence received mental health treatment in 2014, and adults with drug dependence are twice as likely as the general population to use psychological therapy.’ Mental Health Foundation 

Substance abuse (using drugs or alcohol for purposes other than for what they are meant to be used for, or in excess) doesn’t always result in mental health issues. But, it is one of the many factors that can cause bad mental health.  Along with… 

  • Abusing the use of alcohol and drugs  
  • Stress 
  • Loneliness 
  • Existing physical health problems 
  • Homelessness
  • Grief
  • Poverty 

That said, misusing drugs and alcohol can lead to long-term mental health problems. 

People often abuse alcohol or drugs to relieve symptoms of an undiagnosed mental problem. But, self-medicating can cause side effects and often makes the symptoms even worse for many reasons:  

Reason 1: Long-term abuse of drugs can cause psychotic reactions and alcohol can make anxiety symptoms worse. 

Reason 2: Substance abuse can increase symptoms of mental illness and trigger new symptoms. 

Reason 3: Alcohol and drugs can react with prescribed medication such as antidepressants. These reactions make prescribed medication less effective at managing symptoms and delays recovery. 

What is Dual Diagnosis? 

Dual Diagnosis refers to someone suffering with two different mental health problems simultaneously. 

You might have heard the phrase Dual Diagnosis used to describe people who are suffering with both substance abuse and a mental health illness. This isn’t correct! The correct medical term for this is co-occurring disorder. 

Co-occuring disorder is a term to describe people who have a problem with abusing alcohol and drugs as well as suffering from a mental health condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. 

The two phrases get confused. As does diagnosing mental health disorders in people who are abusing alcohol or drugs. Misusing alcohol or drugs often covers up an underlying mental illness. You could be unwell for a long time, and substance abuse could be delaying a clear diagnosis and getting the help you need. 

But, unique treatment programmes tailored to treat both addiction and co-occurring mental health problems do exist, and are available to anyone who needs help! 

If you want to understand mental health problems and their relationship with substance abuse – have a look at the technical, but helpful, information on the Patient UK website.

Do you use drugs or alcohol to manage a mental health problem? 

We can help you take steps towards managing substance abuse and treating a mental health problem. Please get in touch with our team today. 

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