The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health  

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Substance abuse, more commonly known as drug abuse or alcohol abuse, is the use of drugs or alcohol in ways other than their recommended consumption. Substance abuse and mental health are intricately connected.

Connections between substance abuse and mental health may lead to changes in behavior. The  influence of drugs may prompt people to do things that are outside their normal character, such as committing criminal acts. Drug abuse may thus lead to criminal penalties in addition to causing health and personality changes.

Mental health and substance abuse connections may be seen in the case of a dual diagnosis, the combination of a diagnosed mental health condition and a substance use disorder. This article discusses dual diagnoses to explain the connection between the consumption of illicit drugs and the development of mental health conditions.

Drug Addiction  

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is itself a mental illness. An addiction may change the normal priorities of individuals and interfere with their normal activities as well. When these two conditions occur together, it is known as a comorbidity or a co-occurring condition in addition to a dual diagnosis.

The conditions are interlinked. Drug abuse may cause or intensify already existing mental illness and on the other hand, people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety may be looking for solace when they consume alcohol and other drugs.

Personality Changes  

Personality changes are some of the most visible symptoms of people suffering from a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental health conditions. Using drugs may alter every single aspect of individuals’ lives, so it may be challenging for people to identify and address such complex problems.

If people abuse drugs or alcohol, they may develop negative personality traits that they never experienced before they began using alcohol or drugs. They may become violent, even though such behavior was not part of their nature before. They may suffer from mood swings, that is, they may be jubilant at one moment and rude or depressed the next. People may also become dishonest and untrustworthy or exhibit other negative characteristics under the influence of drugs.

Poor Health Conditions  

When they occur together at the same time, substance abuse and mental health conditions may be spotted in individuals’ facial expressions and bodily gestures. Prolonged drug abuse can take a toll on people’s short-term and long-term health. Addiction may gradually weaken people’s immune systems. People may encounter small initial problems that may eventually become enormous health issues.

Financial Hardships  

Drug abuse may cause anxiety and other mental conditions. Such anxiety may occur because abusing drugs may create substantial financial hardship. Illicit drugs are expensive and abusers may go into debt to buy themselves drugs and alcohol because they are afraid of living without them. In addition, people may miss work or even lose their jobs because of their drug addiction. Financial hardships may cause anxiety and depression and ultimately lead to a dual diagnosis.

Self-Medication  

Self-medication is one of the most common issues relating to substance abuse and mental health conditions. People with dual diagnoses may try to cope with their mental health issues by using drugs in higher quantities than prescribed or drinking a great deal of alcohol, but substance abuse may make their mental illnesses worse. Sometimes people suffering from acute depression or anxiety may resort to consuming alcohol or using drugs in large quantities to numb the pain inside.

One Disorder Triggers Many Others  

Drug and alcohol abuse may create many problems. For example, a person under the influence of alcohol may lose a sense of who he or she is. Mental health symptoms such as paranoia and delusions are common effects of using illicit drugs or misusing legal drugs and alcohol. Drug and alcohol abuse may put people in prison and destroy every aspect of their lives, so treating such conditions and mental illnesses is paramount.

Unfortunately, people suffering from dual diagnoses may fail to understand that alcohol and illicit drugs do not curb their underlying mental conditions. Instead, using substances may trigger a whole new batch of problems that may increase the severity of already existing mental agonies. Thus, when there are dual diagnoses, people struggling with substance abuse and mental health conditions should enroll themselves in treatment programs that address both issues simultaneously. 

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