April 16, 2020

Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness?

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Table of Contents

Medicially Reviewed By:
Dr. Priya Chaudhri
credentials here

Drug addiction is a complex issue, and so is mental illness. Both disorders display serious and persistent symptoms.

When the best treatment options are being decided, it’s crucial that all issues are included. An addiction treatment program that addresses all these points results in effective recovery and helps to prevent relapse.

The Effects of Addiction on the Brain

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction can be considered a mental illness in and of itself because using substances causes fundamental brain changes.

The results of these brain changes alter the priorities of the person suffering from addiction. After addiction has taken hold, obtaining and using drugs or alcohol becomes the person’s main priority. Compulsive behaviors—those with little impulse control—dominate the person’s life without regard to the resulting consequences, which is one indication of mental illness.

The Relationship of Addiction and Mental Health Issues

Research has shown that most people who abuse drugs or alcohol also have mental health issues, and the reverse is true as well.

  • People who have anxiety or mood disorders are twice as likely to also have a substance abuse disorder.
  • People with mental health disorders, such as antisocial or conduct disorders, are also twice as likely to have addiction problems.
  • People with substance abuse problems are also twice as likely to suffer from mental health disorders like mood and anxiety disorders.

Some areas of the brain are affected by both substance abuse and other mental illnesses. One affected area is the pathways that are used by neurotransmitters. Since common areas of the brain are affected by addictive substances, they may also be involved in mental health disorders like depression.

Drug Addiction Treatment Options

The first and most important step in addiction programs is to evaluate a client to understand all the mental health issues, besides addiction, that are present and need treatment. Many individuals need qualified help for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, as alcohol detox can be quite dangerous. A comprehensive assessment by trained professionals is needed to do this.

People entering addiction treatment programs need screening for additional mental health issues. Also, people entering mental health treatment need screening by trained healthcare professionals to uncover any substance use disorders.

Once all the symptoms a person is experiencing are diagnosed, it’s crucial to treat all disorders at the same time. Substance abuse and mental health disorder symptoms are typically persistent and resist treatment in someone with co-existing disorders, so a plan of treatment that recognizes this will be most effective.

Finding the Right Help

Drug Addiction treatment plans that will be most effective include:

Medications: Using medicines that are effective in the treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues. Sometimes these medications will help multiple problems.
Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy that modify behaviors, when used alone or with a medication program, have proven to be effective in helping clients with co-occurring disorders.

Finding the most effective treatment involves multiple approaches. This creates a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program that supports clients who are struggling with addiction to reach sobriety, and it helps to prevent relapse.

Our team of experts is here to help you.