Can Mental Illness Lead to Substance Abuse?

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, substance use, or both, many questions may arise. Did the mental illness lead to substance use? Did substance use lead to or worsen a mental illness? The fact that mental illness and substance use frequently co-occur is certain. Many providers now treat substance abuse and mental illness simultaneously in a highly effective approach called dual diagnosis treatment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use and mental illness, contact Olympic Behavioral Health to learn more. Reach us at [Direct] or email us online to start the vital conversation about dual diagnosis treatment for better recovery outcomes.

Why Is Dual Diagnosis Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment So Effective?

In the past, doctors sometimes refused to treat individuals for mental health concerns unless they first quit any substance they were abusing. Sadly, many were unable to do so since, in truth, they were using substances as a way of self-medicating for these issues. Others were able to quit substance use for a time but later relapsed because their mental illness remained untreated. Thankfully, modern medicine now recognizes that this approach is far less effective than dealing with both substance use and mental illness at the same time.

Addressing the whole person and recognizing the complex interplay between mental illness and substance use is necessary. This way, clients can gain and maintain sobriety and better mental health over the long term. They simultaneously receive the tools and recovery assets they need in each area to avoid relapse in one due to stressors coming from the other. For example, mental training from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help a client deal with their triggers to use. Similarly, medication-assisted treatment for substance use detox can help clients get free from the physical and psychological pain that makes it challenging to manage their mental disorders constructively.

Can Mental Illness Lead to Substance Abuse?

Can mental illness lead to substance abuse? The short answer is yes. Some mental disorders pose known risks for developing substance abuse. Essentially, the disorders, whether subclinical, mild, or severe, may cause so much disturbance to a person’s psyche and physical wellbeing that they choose to self-medicate to manage their symptoms.

Sadly, while substance abuse may reduce symptoms in the short term, many substances actually worsen overall mental health. For example, those with bipolar disorder who also abuse cocaine have been found to have higher rates of bipolar progression than those who don’t.

Moreover, some mental illnesses cause changes in brain activity, making those who struggle with them more susceptible to substance abuse. Some mental health disorders modify the typical function of the brain’s reward center and ability to discern negative consequences. Such disorders may contribute to abusing substances that provide short-term mental rewards or highs at a high cost to health and quality of life.

Why Else Might Mental Health Disorders and Substance Use Co-Occur?

While it’s certainly possible for mental illness to contribute to substance abuse, the issue is complex, and it’s important to exercise compassion and sensitivity in the quest for knowledge. In truth, modern medicine recognizes three main reasons substance abuse and mental illness so frequently co-occur, which are:

  • Substance abuse and mental disorders share common risk factors – Factors like environmental trauma and stress can lead to both health concerns. Likewise, some hereditary features raise the risk of both mental illness and substance use.
  • Mental illness can predispose people to substance abuse – Disorders like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety can prompt people who aren’t receiving adequate external support to self-medicate.
  • Substance use can predispose people to develop mental illness – Some commonly abused substances cause changes in brain function and structure over time and can actually make mental illness more likely to develop.

Begin Recovery with Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Olympic Behavioral Health

There’s no need to struggle with mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders alone. At Olympic Behavioral Health, our caring team is standing by to answer your questions and help you get the comprehensive treatment you or your loved one needs. Reach out online or call [Direct] to begin the healing journey.