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Addiction and Mental Health

Co-Occurring Disorders such as mental health and substance abuse disorders are very common and oftentimes overlooked. It has been estimated that 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. Conversely, it has been estimated that 29 percent of all people diagnosed as mentally ill abuse either alcohol or drugs.

Mental health problems often predate substance abuse problems by 4-6 years; alcohol or other drugs may be used as a form of self-medication to alleviate the symptoms of the mental disorder. In some cases, substance abuse precedes the development of mental health problems. For instance, anxiety and depression may be brought on as a response to stressors from broken relationships, lost employment, and other situations directly related to a drug-using lifestyle.

Does drug abuse cause mental disorders, or vice versa?
Drug addiction and mental health disorders often co-exist. In some cases, mental diseases may precede ad- diction; in other cases, drug abuse may trigger or exacerbate mental disorders, particularly in individuals with specific vulnerabilities.

Emotional Issues or Substance Abuse Which came first? 


Often the psychiatric problem occurs first. In an attempt to feel better the individual self-medicates with alcohol or drugs which can lead to chemical depend- ency. Depression, anxiety, bipolar depression, ADHD, and even
schizophrenia are all implicated in increased risk to drink or use drugs to help them with there emotional tone.

In other cases, the alcohol or drug dependency is the primary condition which over time can lead to depression, anxiety and more severe emotional and mental problems.

Regardless of the cause, the first step to living a more healthy life. Sleep, exercise, diet (SED) is essential for non medical approaches to improvement in mood. At times medications such as mood stabilizers and other psychotropics can be very helpful.

Co-occurring disorders treatment should provide for:
• Drug and Alcohol Use
• Behavioral Addictions
• Co-dependency Patterns
• Mental Health and Psychiatric Status
• Trauma Issues
• Compulsivity
• Family Functioning
• Social Relationships
• Physical Health and Fitness
• Diet and Nutrition
• Vocational and Educational Needs
• Legal Problems
• Sleep Hygiene

An Integrated Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment
Treatment Should be Integrated!

Specialists including psychiatrists, psychologists, physical health and fitness professionals should work in tandem to make a specific treatment plan for each person.

Addressing mood disorders, the role of medications, and the biology of addictions should be supervised by a psychiatrist. Addressing psychological patterns, defenses, personality styles, core recurrent relationship themes, and cognitive distortions can be addressed by psychologists.

Sleep, exercise, diet, can all influence emotional tone. Sleep hygiene is an important, non chemical approach, to helping the brain respond in a predictable fashion. Exercise can lift and regulate mood by stimulating natural endorphin release. A good healthy diet also key to helping the body and the brain heal itself.

Can Addiction be Treated Successfully?

Yes. Addiction is a treatable disease.
Discoveries in the science of addiction have led to advances in drug abuse treatment that help people stop abusing drugs and resume their productive lives.

Can Addiction Be Cured?
Addiction need not be a life sentence. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.

How Can Medications Help Treat Drug Addiction?
Different types of medications may be useful at different stages of treatment to help a patient stop abusing drugs, stay in treatment, and avoid relapse.

• Treating Withdrawal. When patients first stop abusing drugs, they can experience a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders; restlessness; and sleeplessness. Certain treatment medications are designed to reduce these symptoms, which makes it easier to stop the abuse
• Staying in Treatment. Some treatment medications are used to help the brain adapt gradually to the absence of the abused drug. These medications act slowly to stave off drug cravings, and have a calming effect on body systems. They can help patients focus on counseling and other psychotherapies related to their drug treatment
• Preventing Relapse. Science has taught us that stress, cues linked to the drug experience (e.g., people, places, things, moods), and exposure to drugs are the most common triggers for relapse. Medications are being developed to interfere with these triggers to help patients sustain recovery

Medications Used to Treat Drug Addiction

• Tobacco Addiction
       » Nicotine replacement therapies (e.g., patch, inhaler, gum)
       » Bupropion
       » Varenicline
• Opioid Addiction
      » Methadone
      » Buprenorphine
      » Vivitrol- Once a month injection that blocks effects of opIates and heroin.
• Alcohol and Drug Addiction
      » Naltrexone – helps prevent relapse to alcohol and heroin abuse
      » Vivitrol- Once a month long acting form of naltrexone that reduces cravings.
      » Disulfiram – helps prevent relapse to alcohol abuse; currently being tested for treating cocaine abuse
      » Acamprosate – helps prevent relapse to alcohol abuse

Much of the data and content from this article lifted straight from

CDC (Centers of Disease Control) and NIDA (National Institute of Drugs and Abuse).

By Arturo C. Taca, Jr., MD
Diplomate-American Board of Addiction Medicine
Diplomate-American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
Medical Director- INSynergy


























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