A fair amount of individuals who are afflicted with substance abuse disorders simultaneously suffer from other mental health disorders – most commonly, anxiety and depression. Some individuals will eventually develop mental disorders as a result of their incessant chemical abuse, while others will turn to alcohol and drugs as a means of self-medicating untreated symptoms of underlying psychological issues. Regardless of which came first, the addictive disorder or the mental disorder, it is absolutely essential that both are treated comprehensively and simultaneously. An individual who suffers from addiction and a mental disorder is said to suffer from a ‘dual diagnosis’ or ‘co-occurring’ disorder. While it is entirely possible to successfully treat individuals who are afflicted with dual diagnosis disorders, treatment can be significantly more difficult. This is because if all of the symptoms of one disorder are not treated thoroughly and effectively, they may work to exacerbate the symptoms of the other disorder.
Mental Health and Drug Addiction
For example: Mike suffers from extreme social anxiety, though he was never professionally diagnosed. As soon as Mike began experiencing symptoms of social anxiety, he began to drink heavily. He found that becoming intoxicated made it easier for him to interact with others. Mike soon developed a psychological dependence on alcohol, and felt he could not effectively interact in any type of social setting unless he was heavily intoxicated. After awhile, Mike experienced severe interpersonal issues start to crop up, and his health began to decline. He checked himself into an inpatient treatment center, and realized that he did, indeed, suffer from an alcohol abuse disorder. However, his underlying anxiety disorder went undetected.
After inpatient treatment, Mike transferred to a sober living facility for men. He found interacting with the other men in his house to be quite overwhelming, and decidedly spent most of his time alone. He was encouraged to fellowship with other members of Alcoholics Anonymous, but found doing so to be nearly impossible. After several weeks of feeling unbearably isolated, Mike decided to resort to his oldest and most comfortable coping mechanism – Jack Daniels. You can see that if the anxiety was treated at the same time as the alcohol abuse disorder, Mike would have had a much better shot at maintaining long-term sobriety. However, Mike was only evaluated by an experienced psychiatrist upon his admission to treatment. It is extremely important that patients are given thorough and repeated evaluations, so that any potential underlying mental disorders can be caught, addressed, and treated.
The Importance of Long-Term Treatment
This is another reason as to why 90-day treatment programs are imperative, and 30-day programs rarely do the trick. The withdrawal process may last up to several months (or more, depending on personal history of abuse and the substances involved), and accurately identifying mental disorders while withdrawal is still taking place can be quite difficult. We at Next Chapter make sure that every one of our patients is psychologically evaluated on a regular basis – and, if possible, continuously evaluated after he has graduated from our inpatient program of addiction treatment. We believe that psychiatric appraisal is also a fundamental component of aftercare, especially seeing as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (which is commonly mistaken for numerous mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression) can last up to a year. In order to make sure all underlying disorders are being effectively treated, it is often necessary for those new to recovery to undergo ongoing clinical assessments for the first year.
Mental health and addiction go hand-in-hand – after all, addiction itself is a type of mental disorder. According to numerous studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, roughly 50 percent of all individuals who suffer from mental illness are also afflicted with substance abuse disorders. 53 percent of drug abusers and 37 percent of alcoholics suffer from at least one severe mental illness. And out of all of the individuals who are diagnosed as mentally ill on a national scale, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs. The link is undeniable – and it is absolutely essential that all disorders are thoroughly and effectively in order for long-term, meaningful recovery to be achieved.