How Does Substance Abuse Contribute to Mental Health Disorders

Abuse of substances can have negative and substantial impacts on mental health. Substance misuse and mental health issues have a complicated and reciprocal interaction. Substance abuse can both cause and exacerbate mental health disorders. Because substance misuse alters brain chemistry, sets off co-occurring illnesses, makes people more susceptible to mental health problems, causes withdrawal symptoms, and exacerbates social and environmental factors, it can have a considerable negative impact on mental health.

In order to develop successful prevention, intervention, and treatment programs, it is essential to understand how substance addiction and mental health interact. In order to promote recovery and overall well-being, integrated therapies that address both substance addiction and mental health are required.

What is substance abuse? 

It is a complicated illness known as substance use disorder (SUD) when a substance is used uncontrollably despite negative effects. People with SUD have a strong concentration on consuming a particular substance or substances, such as alcohol, cigarettes, or illegal narcotics, to the point where the person’s capacity to function in daily life is compromised. Even when they are aware that the drug is having or will have negative effects, people continue to use it.

The most serious SUDs are occasionally referred to as addictions. Individuals with substance abuse disorders may exhibit altered thought patterns and actions. People who experience strong cravings, personality changes, odd movement patterns, and other behaviors do so as a result of changes in the structure and function of their brains. The areas of the brain associated with judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavioral control show changes in brain imaging investigations.

What are the causes of substance use disorders?

Although genetics are considered to contribute between 40% and 60% of a person’s risk, the exact origin of substance use disorders is still unknown. In childhood or the early adolescent years, substance use frequently begins as a method to feel good or out of curiosity. Substance use disorders and addiction can develop as a result of frequent use of the drug and an elevated tolerance.

Some individuals who acquire substance use disorders also co-occur with mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, and start abusing drugs or alcohol to treat their symptoms. Additional risk factors that could result in a substance use disorder are as follows:

  • Addiction runs in my family.
  • Sleep issues.
  • Pain that lasts for a long time.
  • Struggling with money.
  • Loss of a close family member.
  • Long-term use of tobacco.
  • Tense atmosphere at home.
  • Lack of childhood parental attachment.
  • Relationship problems.

What are the most common mental health disorders that occur with substance abuse?

A substance use disorder affects more than one in four persons who have severe mental health issues. There is a higher prevalence of substance use issues with specific types of mental health issues, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality Disorder

What are the Symptoms of substance abuse disorder?

Due to the wide range of functioning that people can exhibit and their propensity to conceal alcohol or drug use, it can be challenging to diagnose a substance use disorder at times. The following behavioral changes could be signs of a substance use disorder:

  • Absences and poor performance in work or school.
  • Frequently engaging in illicit activities, accidents, and conflicts.
  • Engaging in covert or suspicious behavior.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Unexpected changes to one’s personality or outlook.
  • Anger outbursts, impatience, or abrupt mood swings.
  • Periods of exceptional agitation, giddiness, or hyperactivity.
  • An absence of motivation.
  • Showing signs of unfounded dread, anxiety, or paranoia.

Physical changes, such as:

  • Excessively large pupils and bloodshot eyes.
  • Unexpected weight gain or reduction.
  • loss of physical appearance.
  • Unusual odors’ on the body, in the clothing, or on the breath.
  • A tremor, slurred speech, or lack of coordination.

Social changes, such as:

  • Unexpected changes in friends, favorite places to hang out, and hobbies
  • Legal issues associated with substance abuse
  • Financial difficulties or an unforeseen demand for money
  • Using drugs despite the fact that it disrupts relationships

How does substance abuse affect mental health?

Here are some of the effects of substance addiction on mental health:

  • Chemical Unbalance and Neurotransmitters Disruption: Prolonged substance misuse can cause an imbalance in the levels of neurotransmitters, which can contribute to the emergence of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
  • Co-Occurring issues (Dual Diagnosis): Substance addiction and mental health issues frequently coexist and interact with one another, resulting in dual diagnosis or co-occurring illnesses. 
  • Increased Propensity for Mental Health Disorders: Abusing substances can reduce inhibitions, impede judgment, and exacerbate impulsivity, making people more prone to impulsive actions and mental health issues.
  • Psychological distress and withdrawal symptoms: When people try to stop using drugs or alcohol or cut back on their use after becoming dependent on them.
  • Social and Environmental variables: Social and environmental variables, including loneliness, unhappy relationships, financial hardship, legal problems, and the loss of a job or social networks, are frequently linked to substance misuse.

Why do Mental Health Disorders Co-Exist With Substance Use?

Despite the high likelihood of co-occurrence between addiction and mental illness, even if one ailment first manifested itself, it does not follow that one necessarily led to the other. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse claims that a lot of things still need to be taken into account. For example:

  • People who take drugs often show one or more signs of another mental disease.
  • Since some people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, mental illnesses can result in drug or alcohol abuse.  

How can mental health be connected to substance abuse?

It is well knowledge that using drugs or alcohol can exacerbate a psychological state that already exists or lead to mental diseases. Abuse of drugs or alcohol can alter neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain in both short- and long-term ways. The development of a psychological disorder may be facilitated by the imbalance of these hormones. The use of drugs and alcohol has been shown to have a significant impact on both schizophrenia and depression.

  • Substance Abuse Can Be Caused By Mental condition: People with a variety of mental problems, all of varied degrees of severity, may abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or to get away from the difficulties that their condition brings them on a daily basis.
  • Substance Abuse May Cause the Symptoms of Mental Illness: On the other hand, substance addiction can worsen existing mental health conditions and make symptoms worse. Although substance misuse doesn’t directly cause mental health disorders, it can exacerbate pre-existing symptoms, worsen psychotic episodes, and bring disorders to the surface. 

What treatment is given to people suffering from substance abuse disorder and mental health?

Treatment types can include:

    • Drug detox: The initial stage of recovery is the drug detox. You can safely and easily withdraw from the substance with the aid of medically supervised detox, which enables you to achieve stability and start therapy. You might be given medicine during detox to ease withdrawal symptoms and stop relapsing.
    • Inpatient rehabilitation: It involves living in a treatment center and receiving care and supervision around-the-clock, as well as various types of therapy and medication, as necessary. 
    • Outpatient rehab: More rigorous outpatient rehab options include partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient programs, which mandate treatment for several hours each day, most days of the week. Less intense options may simply require weekly treatment.
  • Co-occurring mental illness: In this case, both the mental illness and the SUD must be treated. Because both problems may have an impact on one another, it is crucial to solve both.

Behavioral therapy is frequently used to treat SUDs. This comprises:

  • Cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT): It aids in altering mental and behavioral tendencies that lead to substance abuse.
  • Motivational interviewing: It helps you become more motivated to stop abusing drugs and alcohol and make healthy lifestyle adjustments.

Contingency management: It makes it easier for you to stay healthy by providing rewards.