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Substance Abuse and Addiction

Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with other mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. Some people develop mental health problems related to their compulsive drug use, and some people take drugs in an attempt to alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders. Whatever symptoms appear first, it is important to treat all mental illnesses at the same time. 


Mental health problems and substance use disorders sometimes occur together because: 


Certain illegal drugs can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem. 

Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication


Mental and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma      


More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem. Substance use problems occur more frequently with certain mental health problems, including:


  • Depression

  • Anxiety disorders


  • Schizophrenia


  • Personality disorders


Substance Use Disorders


Substance use disorders can refer to substance use or substance dependence. Symptoms of substance use disorders may include:      


Behavioral changes, such as:


  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school

  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

  • Using substances in physically hazardous situations such as while driving or operating a machine

  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns


  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude

  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lacking of motivation 
  • Appearing fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason


Physical changes, such as:


  • Bloodshot eyes and abnormally sized pupils 

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination


Social changes, such as:


  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies

  • Legal problems related to substance use
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems
  • Using substances even though it causes problems in relationships


Recovering from Mental Health Problems and Substance Use


Someone with a mental health problem and substance use disorder must treat both issues. Treatment for both mental health problems and substance use disorders may include rehabilitation, medications, support groups, and talk therapy. 


The warning signs of addiction include: 


Tolerance: Your body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug and requires larger amounts to achieve the same effects.


Withdrawal: If you reduce your intake of the drug, you experience physical symptoms like nervousness, nausea, tremors, cold sweats or agitation.


Remorse: You feel guilty or sad after you’ve used the drug, even though you take the drug in order to feel better.


Relapse: Whenever you try to stop using the drug, cravings or withdrawal symptoms drive you back to your destructive habits.