August 19, 2021 By EHN

Did you know that substance use and mental health disorders affect the same part of the brain? So, it’s no surprise that addictions and mental health disorders often occur at the same time. When a mental health disorder contributes to substance use, the condition is called a co-occurring or concurrent disorder (also known as dual-diagnosis or comorbidity). Simply put, it means having both an addiction and a mental health disorder at the same time or at different times.

When mental health disorders are left untreated, they can cause relapses, making rehabilitation from addiction much harder to achieve. Statistics Canada data from 2012 estimated that 282,000 Canadians (1.2% of the population) aged 15 to 64 had experienced a combination of a mood or anxiety disorder and an alcohol or drug use disorder within the past year.

What is addiction?
Addiction is a term used to describe both a substance use disorder or loss of control when it comes to a substance or a behaviour. When a person is addicted to a substance (like alcohol or drugs), they fall into a harmful pattern of consumption despite negative outcomes and a desire to stop. There are often symptoms of dependence, including an increased tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Addiction can impact every aspect of a person’s life.

What is mental illness?
Mental illness is defined as a change or “a disturbance in your thought, perceptions and emotions that affects your ability to think, make decisions and function on a day-to-day basis. There are degrees of mental illness. It can vary from mild to severe. However, any version merits diagnosis and treatment”.

Mental health disorders can occur unexpectedly like a cold or any other disease. Rather than a weakness, mental illness is a biological condition that is triggered by the social environment.

If a person has high blood sugar, they see a specialist. If they broke their arm, they get an x-ray and a cast from a doctor. It is just as important to seek treatment for mental health afflictions from a medical professional.

Can mental illness cause an addiction?
Some studies suggest that co-occurring disorders may happen for one of two reasons:

  1. A person’s underlying genetic and environmental factors could be increasing the risk of both substance abuse and a mental health disorder.

  2. The two disorders could have interrelated effects — as one disorder worsens, the risk of developing the other increases. For example, someone suffering from a mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression, just wants to get better. Substances provide temporary relief, but will only worsen the situation. Over time, tolerance builds and greater quantities of substances are needed to achieve the same sense of well-being, leading to an addiction.

Can an addiction cause mental illness?
A substance use problem can also lead to mental illness over time. Psychoactive substances change the structure and neurochemistry of the brain. For example, continued use of cocaine can create depression due to the drug over-stimulating the body and mind. When substance use stops, it can take up to five years to recover from the concurrent mental disorder.

Getting help
A proper addiction treatment program will address both addiction and mental health simultaneously, providing patients with the skills to get better and stay better once they leave the facility.

To treat co-occurring disorders, an individual must get sober first. This may require a supervised detox as well as inpatient treatment. Then, a mental health assessment will take place and further treatment will be administered.

At EHN Sandstone, our team of trained medical professionals will develop a treatment plan specific to each patient that addresses both the addiction and the mental health disorder. This treatment plan is called an integrated treatment, and often utilizes DBT and CBT, treatments which address problematic thoughts and help to regulate emotions, resulting in greater chances for success and leaving less room for future relapses.

If you are struggling with alcohol or drug dependence, EHN Sandstone is here to provide the treatment and mental health support you deserve. Reach out to us today at 587-350-6818. [phone number will change to 1-866 on web automatically]

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Five Reasons Why Aftercare is Essential for Sustaining Your Recovery