Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a mental illness. It is caused by a combination of behavioral, biological, and environmental factors, and it results in changes in the brain’s structure and function.  Similar to other mental illnesses, addiction (also known as substance use disorder) impairs a person’s ability to function at work or school, maintain stable relationships, and cope with stressful situations.


While this may be common knowledge, it’s only part of the story. The relationship between addiction and mental illness is more complex than most people know. Here are five important connections between mental illness and substance abuse: 


#1. Untreated mental health disorders increase the risk of substance abuse 

People who suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, or bipolar disorder often turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve their symptoms. Although the substance may provide temporary relief, it can exacerbate symptoms in the long run, leading to further substance abuse and an unhealthy cycle of worsening symptoms. learn more about TMS Therapy in San Diego


#2. Substance abuse can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems

Not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol will develop mental health problems, but if a person is predisposed to a mental disorder, symptoms can be triggered by substance abuse. In some cases, eliminating drugs and alcohol from the system is enough to alleviate the symptoms of depression or anxiety, for example. But sometimes, substance abuse changes brain chemistry for the long-term.


#3. Substance abuse shares common symptoms with some mental health issues 

Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants can trigger symptoms of depression. These include feelings of lethargy, sadness, and hopelessness. Chronic use can result in irreversible changes to the brain’s chemistry. Certain stimulants, such as cocaine, can cause drug-induced psychosis, which is characterized by delusions and hallucinations, symptoms associated with schizophrenia. A drug-induced psychotic break is usually limited in duration, but it can also act as a trigger for psychotic illness in those who are predisposed to such conditions. 


#4. Many people struggle with both mental health issues and substance use disorders

The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 9.2 million adults had both a substance use disorder and a co-occuring mental health or behavioral disorder. This is known as dual diagnosis, and it’s an important distinction. Effective treatment cannot focus on one disorder or the other; it must address both. 


#5. Mental disorders and substance use disorders are treatable

Although there is no cure for mental disorders or substance use disorders, they are treatable. Whether a person has a mental disorder, a substance use disorder, or both, there are a number of treatment options that can result in effective and long-term symptom management. Often, the most effective treatment combines medication and psychotherapies. Some people respond to treatment right away. Others must try a number of different treatments before finding a combination that works for them. 


The right treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis 

If you’re struggling with addiction or other mental health issues, you don’t have to do it alone – We can help. At Pacific Health Systems, our high-quality continuum of care begins with a thorough evaluation, including assessments of your physical and emotional symptoms, your medical history, and your relationship to drugs and alcohol. Once we have an accurate diagnosis, we’ll create a highly customized treatment plan designed to address your symptoms and their underlying causes. Your mental health is our priority. We’re committed to helping you optimize it and live a healthy, productive, and satisfying life. For more information, give us a call at 619-267-9257 today.