How to Battle Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Addiction by Holly

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What are co occurring mental health disorder and substance abuse?

A co-occurring disorder is when a person is battling some kind of mental health issue alongside substance abuse like drugs and alcohol addiction. Both SUDs and mental health issues share a strong link. In fact, it’s estimated that almost half the individuals suffering from one will develop the other at some time or another. 

It’s not uncommon for substance abuse to fuel a co-occurring disorder and vice-versa. The severity of both can also increase over time. 

The most common mental health issues to co-occur alongside SUD are – 

  • Anxiety Disorders –  Social anxiety and general anxiety share a strong link with marijuana abuse. Almost 19% of people in the US have some kind of anxiety disorder. GAD, social anxiety, and panic disorder can also increase the odds of co-occurring issues.
  • Personal Disorders – In terms of the general population, around 10-15% suffer from personality disorders. When we talk about those suffering from addiction and substance abuse, the rate is an astounding 35-70%. The commonest personality disorders in those battling SUD are – borderline, avoidant personality, paranoia, and antisocial behavior. 
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – Studies tell us that ADHD comes with an increased risk of developing addiction-related issues during adulthood (mainly 20s and 30s.) There is a positive correlation in symptoms of ADHD like impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattention with substance use in adults. 
  • Mood Disorder – Around 30% of people suffering from SUD are likely to suffer from one of the mood disorders such as depression and bipolar.
  • PTSD – According to a survey, people with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are 4x more likely to develop substance use disorder than those without.

What Causes Co-occurring and Substance Addiction?

It is estimated that over half the people with one disorder will eventually develop the other during their lifetime. While the exact set of reasons that can fuel these two conditions might be long, researchers have found the 3 most prevalent reasons as to why co-occurring disorders may take place.

Overlapping Risk Factors

Many of the risk factors behind SUD and mental health issues are overlapping. Generally, these include environmental factors like exposure to drugs or alcohol at an early age, early childhood trauma, and genetics. All of these factors can make a person more susceptible to developing mental health issues and requiring addiction treatment for drugs such as Cocaine or others.

Self-Medication

Dealing with a mental illness can be difficult. That’s why many people resort to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. In medical terms, this is called ‘self-medicating’. However, it’s quite misleading as instead of fixing the problems, it only masks them. What’s more, in the long run, it exacerbates the symptoms and worsens the dependency on drugs/alcohol, making it more difficult to detox from alcohol or drugs, often requiring medically supervised detox.

Drug-Induced Brain Changes

Prolonged drug and substance use can change the brains ‘motivation and reward mechanism’. It can give a false sense of wellness causing one to develop a dependence on drugs beyond control. Eventually, it can lead to mental health issues by affecting the brain and neurotransmitters.

Drugs affect the areas of the brain associated with mood, impulse control, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

How to Battle Co-occurring Mental Health and Substance Use

Residential Treatment 

Residential rehab programs begin with an initial assessment to draw an individual treatment plan. This is followed by detox and several other therapies. The patient has to stay in a structured and highly supervised facility. Common inpatient treatment duration for drug addiction is 30 days. Residential programs put the entire focus on recovery as daily triggers and challenges are removed that often lead to relapses.

Outpatient Healing Programs

Under this program, a patient receives all the treatments and therapies as in residential rehab. However, they are not required to live in the facility. This is good for young teenagers, parents, and people with mild addiction who cannot sacrifice work commitments. 

Detox

This is usually the first step in most addiction treatment programs. Drug detoxification entails medical supervision to get the drugs out of the system. With a clean system, experts can begin further treatment. Generally, therapies and medication cannot begin unless detox is successfully over.

Integrated treatment

Integrated treatment often includes behavioral therapy and counseling as interventions. Rehab centers in Connecticut and other parts of the United States use integrated treatment coupled with medication. Integrated treatment encompasses several therapeutic techniques with proven results in treating substance abuse and mental health issues. Common integrated therapies are –

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy aka CBT aims to understand negative behaviours, thinking patterns, and self-talk that might be causing addiction and other disorders. It then works on changing them.
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy is used for treating borderline personality disorder. It does so by working on negative actions and thoughts like self-harm, suicidal behaviour, and dependence on a substance to cope with daily stressors.
  • Contingency management is often used in upscale addiction treatment centres. It reinforces positive changes by utilising incentives for patients who can exhibit positive behaviours such as staying sober and meeting therapy guidelines.

Medication Treatment

Psychotherapeutic Medications are often integral to treating SUD and co-occurring disorders and are frequently used during alcohol treatment. The commonly prescribed medications include antipsychotics and antidepressants. The latter is used to mostly manage the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Other than that, medications may also be used to lessen the cravings so that relapses don’t happen. 

Buprenorphine, naltrexone, methadone, disulfiram, and acamprosate are the common medications used for treating SUD.

Peer Support Clubs

It’s not uncommon for people with psychiatric issues to become antisocial. The withdrawal from social life exacerbates when you throw drugs and alcohol into the mix. By joining peer support groups/clubs like 12-step, Alcoholics Anonymous, and group counseling – patients can find solace in the presence of other people going through similar battles. 

They can draw inspiration from their stories and also learn some tips to maintain sobriety. Support groups are highly effective in fostering a long-term, sustainable drug-free lifestyle.

Education and Counselling for Families

Sometimes a toxic family environment or dysfunctional relationships may unknowingly be fuelling a person’s addiction. Family counselling educates people how to create a healthy living environment for a family member to support long-term recovery.

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Holistic Remedies

Medical science is embracing the effectiveness and importance of holistic/alternative treatment when it comes to treating drug addiction. Many rehab centres are now adopting a holistic treatment model. Common holistic therapies are – massage therapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, yoga, reiki, meditation, and music therapy.

In Conclusion

Co-occurring disorders may be a harsh reality in many people’s lives. But, know that if you or your loved one is going through this issue, help is always available.

Holly is a freelance writer who loves to help people who are struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Holly knows first-hand what it’s like to deal with substance addiction, and has now been sober for 5 years. Holly is a frequent contributor to many addiction-related blogs and organizations such as the Addiction Treatment Division and Inpatient-Rehab.org.

How quitting illegal drugs helps anxiety in the long term: Guest post by Robert Tropp

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For many people, feelings of anxiety are a regular occurrence. Anxiety can be a motivator to do better in work, school, and to become better at nurturing healthy relationships. However, if the anxiety you’re experiencing lingers for longer than it should and paralyses you, more profound issues are at play. If you are using drugs and alcohol to deal with anxiety, you are likely doing more harm than good.

At best, drugs are only a short-term solution to anxiety. If you aren’t dealing with the underlying issues that give rise to your anxiety, you will be plagued with this condition over the long haul. The problems only compound if you become increasingly dependent on drugs to deal with anxiety, you can develop a co-occurring substance abuse problem which further complicates matters.

Getting professional help for your addiction to drugs and alcohol will, in most cases, involve receiving treatment for the “co-occurring” anxiety. Through the help of experienced treatment staff and proven programs, you can become healthy and happy.  

In What Ways Does Drug Treatment Save You From Anxiety?

As already stated, drug and alcohol use provide a temporary reprieve from the anxiety you experience. While you may experience short periods of relief, your anxiety returns. If you aren’t taking the time to address the root causes of anxiety in your life, your anxiety will worsen over time. Additionally, your substance use will increase over time, increasing the likelihood of developing an addiction to substances that allow you to “self-medicate.”

Through comprehensive physical and psychological evaluations and intensive drug treatment, you will get the tools and support you need to address these issues head-on. As you get better, staff will provide you the tools you need to deal with your anxiety healthily.  

What Tools Can I Learn to Deal With My Anxiety Without Drugs?

As you progress through treatment, you learn of ways to deal with your anxiety without resorting to substance abuse. Many treatment centers teach mindful meditation techniques such as focused breathing and simple yoga poses. These techniques help to ground you, calm the mind, and focus on the present moment. A significant benefit of mindful meditation is that techniques are relatively easy to learn, and you only need 15-20 minutes a day to see results.

Another tool that you learn in treatment that helps you alleviate anxiety is through simple lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and healthy eating habits. Exercise helps release dopamine which is the brain natural feel-good chemical. You become more relaxed and at ease, and regular exercise helps you look and feel your best. Likewise, a healthy diet nourishes the body and brain and provides the nutrients it needs for optimal functioning.

Additionally, you can effectively deal with anxiety without illegal drugs in the long run through the use of ongoing therapy. With the help of an experienced mental health professional, you can address any recurring anxiety in a safe and supportive environment. Through the use of effective therapies such as CBT, talking therapies or EMDR, you can actively work to address root issues that give rise to your anxiety. When those are addressed, you will get the tools you need to manage your anxiety at different times in your life.

The decision to quit drugs and alcohol is a significant life decision. While it may seem overwhelming and makes you feel anxious, the support and encouragement you receive in treatment will go a long way in helping you leave your addiction and your anxiety behind.
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About Robert Tropp

Robert Tropp is a functional nutrition practitioner whose primary focus is substance abuse and mental health disorders. Robert uses a functional medicine approach to help clients regain mental and physical well-being.  Robert is an advocate for the importance of nutrition in addiction recovery and works as the health and wellness director at Nuview Treatment Center in Marina Del Rey, California, USA.

 

The Connection Between Anxiety and Substance Abuse: Guest blog by Nu View Treatment Center

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When people abuse drugs and alcohol, it is often the sign of a deeper underlying issue. For many people struggling with addiction, the source of their addiction is due to mental illness that often has gone undiagnosed. One of the most common co-occurring disorders seen with substance abuse is anxiety. The following article will outline what defines anxiety, and the connection between anxiety and substance abuse.

What is Anxiety?

In general, anxiety is an important emotion to have. While it may be normal to feel fear, apprehension, and nervousness from time to time, it becomes an issue when people experience these emotions at excessive levels. When anxiety takes over a person’s thought process, it manifests itself into physical symptoms such as the following:

  •    Increased and constant restlessness
  •    Increased and uncontrollable feelings of worry
  •    Irritability
  •    concentration difficulties
  •    sleep problems

 

Anxiety can be grouped into several types of disorders. These can include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, social anxiety disorder, and selective mutism among others. The leading causes of anxiety include work and family stresses, financial worries as well as underlying medical issues. The roots of anxiety can also be traced to past traumatic events that are unresolved.

 

How Anxiety and Substance Abuse Connect

When people suffer from anxiety, mental and physical symptoms can be very intense and can wear on the body and mind. To get some form of relief, people may turn to substances that stimulate dopamine in the brain to help numb the feelings of discomfort. Self-medicating oneself to take the edge of off anxiety only works in the short-term and can have a rebound effect that makes anxiety worse over time. Without addressing the roots of anxiety, their condition will worsen over time—along with their substance use.

The connection between anxiety and substance abuse can also trace back to the teenage and young adult years. During adolescence, the brain is still developing and forming. If people used drugs as a teenager, it could alter the development of the parts of the brain that govern reasoning and impulse control. Drug and alcohol use early in life can increase the likelihood of anxiety and substance abuse as that person gets older.

Another reason for anxiety disorders and substance abuse connection is because of one’s genetics. Some people may be more predisposed to both anxiety and drug and alcohol dependence through genetic factors shaped by one’s environment.

 

Getting Help

For those dealing with co-occurring disorders, they must seek specialised help from a dual diagnosis treatment facility specializing in mental health and addiction disorders. The first step in getting help is undergoing medical detoxification. During detox, patients will undergo medication-assisted therapy to help better tolerate the physical and psychological symptoms associated with withdrawal. Additionally, staff will perform physical and mental health evaluations to pinpoint any underlying issues that may impact recovery.

For those suffering from dual diagnosis, treatment will include mental health services in addition to addiction treatment services. Dual diagnosis facilities feature mental health professionals working alongside addiction treatment personnel in creating an individual treatment plan that fits each client’s specific needs.

In addition to therapy, 12-step counselling, life, and coping skills training and other forms of treatment, patients will receive mental health treatment with a focus on ongoing counselling and medication-based therapies that will give them the tools to handle anxiety.

 

This guest blog was written by Nu View Treatment Center