Why Drug Addiction Often Makes Pre-Existing Mental Health Issues Worse


When a person has a pre-existing condition, such as depression or anxiety, and they develop a drug addiction, this can lead to what’s known as a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis can be really hard to identify, because certain drugs can cause mental health issues over time.


If someone suffered from mental health problems prior to their drug or alcohol abuse, it could be that they are using drugs as a form of self-medication. That is a serious problem as drug abuse is bound to make pre-existing problems worse.


Typical Forms of Dual Diagnosis


People who are coping with depression may choose to self-medicate by drinking alcohol. At the same time, alcoholism over a long period of time is believed to cause depression symptoms.


The above article is an example of why a dual diagnosis can be so difficult to make. If a professional is unable to get a handle on a patient’s long-term mental health history, it would almost seem as if the depression symptoms were caused by alcoholism, rather than already existing. In this instance, alcohol abuse could be a form of self-medication.


It’s also not uncommon for individuals who suffer from anxiety, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, and schizophrenia to have a co-occurring condition.


Why Drug Abuse Makes Co-Occurring Conditions Worse


If a fire is raging out of control which option makes the most sense?


(1)   attempting to put it out with water

(2)   attempting to put it out with gasoline


Both water and gasoline are liquid, but just because they have that in common does not make them interchangeable methods of dealing with an out of control blaze. Water can be thought of as professional mental health treatment options. Gasoline would be the abuse of drugs and alcohol.


While seeking mental health treatment as soon as possible is the best possible solution for coping with mental health conditions, drugs and alcohol is a method of coping with these issues that inevitably makes them worse.


For instance, if a person prone to depression engages in alcohol abuse, there is a chance they will experience suicidal thoughts. Also, an anxiety-sufferer who self-medicates with heroin may experience severe panic attacks when going through withdrawal.


Options for a Dual Diagnosis


It’s absolutely important for a dual diagnosis to be made as soon as possible; individuals with both drug and mental health problems typically have a worse prognosis than those who suffer from drug addiction alone. They are more likely to relapse, miss appointments, and resist taking their medications as prescribed.


For more severe, life-threatening addictions — where withdrawal can lead to death — inpatient detoxification at a hospital or detoxification facility is likely necessary.


Detoxing is an important step because psychiatric treatments are more likely to work for those who are not abusing drugs. That’s because they are sober and more able to focus on following through with treatment options. Options for newly sober individuals include sobriety housing, group therapy and certain FDA-approved subscriptions.


As you can see, a dual diagnosis may be difficult to make and treat, but it’s not impossible. The most important aspect of healing is to help the individual become — and stay — sober.


If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, please consider seeking professional advice and assistance as soon as possible.


Adrienne Erin is a blogger interested in doing everything it takes to live a healthier life. You can follow her on Twitter at @foodierx or read more of her work on her blog Foodie Fitness.

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