Substance use disorders and mental illnesses often go hand in hand. Thus, one cannot get his or her depression or anxiety treated until the addiction to drugs or alcohol has been addressed. In fact, both these disorders feed on each, wreaking havoc on an individual’s well-being.
However, due to lack of awareness, many people suffering from such dual condition are not getting the right kind of treatments. While 50 percent of general psychiatric patients also suffer from a substance use disorder, only 7.4 percent of individuals receive treatment for both the conditions, said a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Precisely, around 37 percent of alcoholics and 53 percent of drug abusers face a high risk of developing a mental illness at any given point, said the report.
An urge to self-medicate mood disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety, is the driving force behind a person’s addiction to drugs or alcohol. Similarly, a persistent drug abuse or dependence can lead to symptoms of mental health issues. However, both these conditions also share certain common triggers, such as family history of dual diagnosis, stress levels, past traumatic experiences, degree of exposure to drugs etc.
Rapid increase in dual diagnosis cases in America
Studies have shown that in the United States, Hispanics are more susceptible to both alcohol and drug abuse than other ethnic groups. Besides, Hispanics also face higher odds of falling prey to depression and an additional substance use problem. Though, the causes of such disparities are highly debatable, the truth is no single ethnic group in America is immune to the dangers of dual diagnosis.
Research shows that men are significantly more vulnerable to suffer from dual diagnosis than women. Other sections of the society which face a strikingly high risk include individuals from lower social and economic groups, veterans from the armed forces and those with more general medical illnesses.
According to mental health experts, genes and other hereditary factors may put individuals at the risk of addiction and mental health-related problems, with a greater possibility of an overlap between such genetic factors. These overlapping factors indicate that some people are more likely to develop multiple disorders than others.
Importantly, if there is any impairment in an individual’s reward and stress functions, which are strongly linked to addiction, it could also render them vulnerable to coexisting conditions. It has been found that those suffering from schizophrenia and those who are addicted to drugs have impaired reward pathways with a high concentration of dopamine activity. People depend on drugs to gain euphoria, without realizing that their substance abuse can trigger latent mental illnesses, making them worse over time.
Dual diagnosis is treatable
Dual diagnosis can be treated with a specialized treatment provided to address both the mental disorder and the substance use disorder at the same time. Substance-induced mental health disorders can be prevented if one avoids addictive substances. Mental health issues may seem treatable in the beginning but can become severe with the passage of time. It is important to screen patients for potential cognitive impairment and provide integrated treatment that caters to both the disorders.