Dealing with substance abuse is never easy, but it can even be more difficult when there’s a mental health problem that reinforces negative addictions. It is not at all uncommon for an individual struggling with alcoholism to have what is known as a dual-diagnosis, or the coexistence of another mental health diagnosis alongside alcoholism. This may include depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mental health problem. So, how do co-occurring disorders appear?
Drugs are self-medicating to mask the symptoms.
If a young man is suffering from depression or anxiety, he may turn to alcohol and other drugs to relieve the symptoms. While there is temporary relief, substance abuse and its side effects begin to take their toll.
Drug abuse can develop the underlying risks for mental disorders.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes a mental disorder, since a complex combination of genetics, environment, and other factors can trigger it. However, if these underlying factors are in play for a mental disorder, drug abuse can be the tipping point.
Drug abuse makes the symptoms worse.
Alcohol and drugs magnify the symptoms of any mental disorder. Because they interfere with the effectiveness of medications such as antidepressants, young men may not get the treatment they need, and this can create other symptoms and issues.
Alcohol and drug abuse and mental disorders are mutually reinforcing, creating a cycle that always results in a worse prognosis for young men. It begins with failure to stick to the medication regiment and is followed by missed appointments. This results in more psychiatric hospitalizations. Dual-diagnosis is quite common among young men, since over 42.7 percent of individuals with a year-long addictive disorder also experienced a year-long mental disorder. Furthermore, 61 percent of individuals suffering from bipolar disorder are 5 times more likely to experience substance abuse than the rest of the population.
An Integrated Approach to Treating Mental Illnesses and Drug Abuse To treat co-occurring disorders, an integrated treatment plan is required. Generally, the same health professionals can address both mental health and substance abuse issues, reinforcing the lessons learned to move forward. For both mental illnesses and drug abuse, admitting the problems are key milestones in recovery. The integrated approach combines issues that are otherwise unconnected. For instance, instead of simply teaching young men with mental health issues how to create healthy relationships, the integrated approach teaches young men how to avoid the relationships that fuel their substance abuse. For integrated treatment to be successful, it must include assertive outreach, motivational interventions, counseling, social support, a community-based process, and cultural sensitivity. With this support, families and friends can ensure that their loved ones get the medical and psychosocial treatments that they deserve to enhance the journey to recovery.