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Mental disorders and substance abuse increase combined comorbidity risk by 2 times

Mental disorders and substance abuse increase combined comorbidity risk by 2 times

The symptoms of mental disorders are often witnessed among individuals who abuse drugs and vice versa. Numerous surveys have reflected and documented the comorbidity of substance addiction and mental disorders across the United States.

To grasp the nature of this comorbidity, it is important to understand that addiction is also a mental disorder. It is a complex brain disease characterized by compulsive and uncontrollable cravings for the substance of abuse.

An addiction to a substance has the ability to alter the brain structure and impair its functions. Because these changes are observed in some of the same brain regions that get compromised in case of mental disorders like depression, anxiety, etc., it is often difficult to distinguish the symptoms of addiction from other psychiatric illnesses. As a result, it becomes difficult and complicated to accurately diagnose and treat the coexisting disorders.

Subtle mental stressors responsible for triggering substance abuse

Regardless of whichever disorder appeared first, the prevalence of co-occurring disorders like substance use disorder (SUD) and mental disorders is quite high among the masses. It is an extremely difficult task for any medical practitioner to determine the causality in the case of such coexisting disorders. Even today, the entire process of identifying the causality  remains challenging. Irrespective of such gaps, it is essential to note that several studies have highlighted that certain mental disorders are known risk factors for substance abuse and that this relationship is bidirectional in nature.

While the symptoms of a mental disorder may be latently lurking in the background, it needs to progress to a certain level for an individual to identify that something is amiss. Such subtle mental health problems change a person’s way in a dramatic way by replacing his or her normal needs with new priorities, such as substance abuse. Unfortunately, as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), such symptoms are eligible for diagnosis only after developing to a certain degree.

Therefore, it cannot be denied that a person’s propensity to abuse substances is  determined by his or her mental stressors that might not have progressed enough to be identified. In the light of the above challenges, the following facts need some consideration:

  • When an individual abuses a substance, it may also trigger one or more symptoms of another mental illness.
  • Individuals with mild or subclinical mental disorders are more likely to abuse substances as a means of self-medication.
  • Some of the factors, such as brain deficits, gender, genetic vulnerabilities, early exposure to stress or trauma, etc., can influence and cause SUDs and other psychiatric illnesses.

Compared to women, the rate of substance abuse is illustrated to be much higher in men. Therefore, the risk of developing a coexisting mental disorder is more in the case of men. While men are more likely to experience an antisocial personality disorder, women are more likely to experience higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders.

Moreover, several studies have established the fact that individuals diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders and antisocial personality or conduct disorder are twice as likely to develop an SUD compared to others. Because this relationship is bidirectional in nature, individuals diagnosed with SUD are almost twice as likely to experience the symptoms of the above-mentioned mental disorders.

Time to seek help

The comorbidity of substance abuse and mental disorders not only raises the problem of accurately diagnosing the underlying conditions, but also pose hurdles in  the adherence to treatment regimens. These problems imperil a patient’s likelihood of recovery and increases the chance of witnessing a relapse shortly after the treatment. With the emergence of specialized dual diagnosis facilities that address both the problems of comorbid disorders, patients now enjoy a higher rate of successful recovery than before.

If you or your loved one is battling co-occurring disorders, it is imperative to seek help. The Florida Dual Diagnosis Helpline assists in accessing the best dual diagnosis treatment centers in Florida that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 337-7631 to know more about the dual diagnosis treatment facilities in Florida.