Substance Abuse and Mental Illness – Two Sides of the Same Coin

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.

What Leads to Substance Abuse?

What makes someone decide to take the plunge into the world of chemicals? Is it desperation, anger, loneliness or plain and simple ignorance?

“But why did you do it in the first place?”, a question that pops into your mind every time you see your loved ones struggling with their addiction at a substance abuse treatment facility. It is perfectly alright to ask this question; after all, how would you be able to help end the addiction if you don’t know what started it? Mostly people take drugs because they want to change something about themselves or their lives, alcohol and drugs seem like a solution to them but eventually, the solution becomes the problem.

A lot of researchers have tried to figure out the reason behind the inception of this deadly habit and after talking to several people who have been through the ups and downs of substance abuse, an anti-drug organization Foundation for a Drug-Free World has come up with a list of probable reasons behind why one chooses to walk down the dark road.

• To fit in: “Everyone is doing it”, more often than we realize this kind of statement is the subtle hint of peer pressure. Many young people lack the social skill of making friends or fitting in a group and they would just about do anything to feel accepted and have a cool group of their own. Unfortunately if they come across a group which is already involved in drug/substance abuse, it is more likely that they would also give in rather than taking a stand all to fit in.

• To escape or relax: Everybody has got troubles of their own that they deal with on a daily basis, but sometimes it becomes too much for them. While some of us try to look for a break by going for a vacation or taking a few days off; others choose the high of alcohol, drugs or other substances to take their mind off the problem. It starts slowly maybe once a month but slowly and steadily the person starts getting dependent on the high. Every time he feels pressurized, he turns towards the high looking for an escape and before he realizes it, that temporary high becomes a permanent need.

• To relieve boredom: One of the major factors in drug abuse in teens and young adults is boredom. Most of the time when they have extra free time at hand or no hobbies and interests to keep us occupied, they start looking for exciting things to do and drinking/ smoking up or drugs seems like a good idea. They think that they have strong will power and may quit any time they want to but the sad reality is once you get hooked up you cannot ‘just stop’ without professional help; in fact trying to go ‘cold turkey’ may even prove to be fatal.

• To seem grown up: When teenagers and young adults see their friends or family getting involved with alcohol or drugs, even if it is something as casual as social drinking; they start to think they even they can handle it. It becomes easier for them to rationalize it by thinking stuff like ‘Everybody drinks during the Sunday family get-together so, why I can’t?’ even the modern music and entertainment seems to be filled with references to drugs making the youngsters believe that it’s Okay to try it

sometimes. This ‘sometimes’ pushes them slowly and steadily towards addiction.

• To rebel: Most parents warn their kids and ask them to stay away from drinking, smoking and other substance abuse but more often than not, these warnings have just the opposite effect. Kids start feeling pressurized and try to look for ways to lash out or rebel against their parents. Smoking or drinking starts seeming like excellent ideas to them and they underestimate that this may severely backfire on them and they might end up becoming addicted.

• To experiment: We have often heard that ‘drugs boost creativity’, this, is a lie. In fact alcohol/substance abuse causes just the opposite. It alters one’s thinking capacity and brain functions in such a way that they are unable to focus on anything other the need to get their high. As time passes, their tolerance increases and they start looking for new ways trying to get the euphoric feeling of being high. Most of the time this pulls a person deeper into the darkness of addiction. All this sucks a person dry of their logical thinking and also drains them of their creativity. Their experiment to get more creative backfires on them.

It is very easy for teenagers and young adults to get into the habit of alcohol/substance abuse without thinking about the long-term consequences. What we need to understand is that alcohol or drug dependency hampers one’s normal brain functions and they are unable to see and understand logic the way we do. Hence, it is imperative that we look out for the slightest signs and make sure that we always stay by their side whenever they need support. Fortunately, it is possible to get help at the right rehab and help your loved ones get their life back on track; all you need to do is be alert to the signs.

Beyond Needle Marks – How Substance Abuse Affects Skin

The damage caused by substance abuse becomes increasingly challenging to camouflage. You may see the signs in yourself; you may see the signs in someone you care for. The mirror rarely lies. Your reflection will eventually reveal the burden you work so hard to conceal.

Substance Abuse Damages the Skin

For those who are relatively healthy, skin changes are often the first recognizable indicator of substance use and abuse. This may explain why dermatologists are often the first of the medical professionals to recognize the early signs of substance abuse disorder.

For better or worse, your skin is a reflection of what’s happening inside your body. The chemicals fueling your addiction will impair your skin’s ability to repair and heal. The effects are cumulative. While chemical abuse will cause your skin to take on a dull, unhealthy tone, certain types of substances are known to cause specific skin concerns. Some of the common skin concerns include:

• Infections

• Ulcers

• Vascular damage

• Mouth sores

• Skin flushing

• Hyperpigmentation

• Breakouts

Accelerating the Aging process with Stimulants

If you are indulging in any type of stimulant, you potentially expedite the aging process. Your heart beats faster, and your body needs to work harder to keep up with the increased demands. Under the strain of stimulants, your body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol breaks down the collagen and elastin in your skin.

Collagen is the support structure within your skin. Elastin keeps your skin supple. When a body is under the stress of chemical dependency, the loss of collagen and elastin will result in saggy jowls, drooping eyelids, loose skin, wrinkles and deepened folds around your nose and mouth. In fact, stimulant abuse can cause you to look decades older. When you combine the effects of collagen loss with the potential weight loss and malnutrition associated with stimulant abuse, the acceleration of skin aging is even more pronounced

The Scars and Scabs of Methamphetamine Use

The chemical imbalances and dehydration caused by drug use, particularly methamphetamines, can result in uncomfortable and troubling sensations on your skin. You may feel like you have bugs crawling on your skin and below the surface. The sensations can be maddening. You may respond by scratching or picking at your skin. Irritation leads to more scratching and picking. Repeated skin irritation and skin injury will result in sores that heal slowly, or not at all. This cycle will scar your skin.

Sores that are slow to heal, blisters, scabs, and scars are some of the more recognizable skin problems associated with methamphetamine use. Commonly called meth sores or meth mites, these sores most commonly occur on your face and arms.

Since methamphetamines also interfere with blood flow, meth sores can appear anywhere on your body. Methamphetamines destroy blood vessels, interfere with your body’s ability to repair cellular damage and can also cause leathery looking skin.

The Enlarged, Protruding or Damaged Veins of Intravenous Drug Use

Many IV drugs are vasodilators that can also induce vasospasms. That means that IV drugs will cause your blood vessels to expand, but then quickly contract. Vasospasms disrupt your circulation, which results in pain, swelling, skin ulcerations, skin infections and blood clots.

Approximately 88 percent of intravenous drug users will also develop chronic venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency means the valves inside your veins that keep your blood flow moving towards your heart don’t close properly. Leaky valves allow the blood to flow backward into the veins. This results in enlarged veins that can bulge and twist, varicose veins.

Severe venous insufficiency can also result in skin ulcers that are difficult to heal because of the decrease in circulation. This skin on your lower legs can discolor and take on a rough, scaly appearance. This is more than a cosmetic issue. Vein damage increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and raises your risk of developing a life-threatening pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that travels to the lungs).

Cellulitis as a Consequence of Skin Popping

While most microorganisms living on your skin are harmless, they can cause devastating consequences when entering your body through an injection site. When veins become damaged by drug use, some IV drug users resort to skin popping, injecting drugs under the surface of the skin. Skin popping is linked to an increased risk of cellulitis, a rash-like skin infection caused by staph or strep bacteria. While this form of bacterial infection is not contagious, it forms a tender, hot, red swollen rash that spreads rapidly.

Cellulitis requires prompt medical attention. Left untreated this infection can enter your bloodstream and lymphatic system. Cellulitis can cause chronic swelling of the infected limb, or worse. Although it’s rare, cellulitis can destroy soft tissues, requiring surgery to remove the damage.

Staph and Fungal Infections Due to Immune System Impairment

Substance abuse disorders disrupt your immune system. They make it difficult for your body to fight infections, this can result in an increase in infections that your once healthy immune system could have eliminated before it could cause any problems. You may find yourself prone to staph infections and fungal infections, particularly on your feet, where fungus thrives in the moist environment. If you are prone to psoriasis or eczema, you may find your flares more frequent and increasingly difficult to manage.

Surface Indications of Alcohol Abuse

Skin flushing can be an indication of alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a blood vessel dilator. Alcohol breaks down to acetaldehyde, which can cause a histamine release, which is the same thing that can happen during an allergic event.

With long-term alcohol abuse, you may also notice an increase in spider veins, small, broken capillaries close to the surface of your skin. Spider veins are often the most noticeable on your face, neck, chest, arms, hands, and abdomen. Particularly in those with liver damage.

The damage to your liver caused by alcohol dependency can also cause jaundice, the yellowing of your skin and eyes. This discoloration is an indication that you have an excessive amount of bilirubin in your system. Your liver normally breaks down bilirubin, but the function has been impaired by alcohol. When treated in its early stages, jaundice caused by the alcohol-related liver disease can be improved.

Increased Severity of Breakouts and Acne

Because of the increased amount of cortisol produced under stress; you may also find that your skin reflects the internal struggle by breaking out. Cortisol increases inflammation; acne is your skin’s response to the inflammation cortisol causes. Acne can also be aggravated by the skin picking habits associated with meth use and the simple fact that addiction may cause you to overlook your basic skin care needs.

Drug and alcohol abuse can cause inflammation, malnutrition, and dehydration. It weakens your immune system and damages blood vessels. Addiction adversely affects your body’s ability to heal. Your skin reflects the damage, while your brain, bones and internal organs continue to pay the price.

Restoring your appearance may be enough motivation to get you, or keep you, on the right path to a drug-free lifestyle. It may not. But as you conquer your addiction, you will see the signs of your progress. You can be assured that the improved health of your skin is a visible indication of the healing within.

Drug and Substance Abuse Rehabilitation for Teenagers – Parenting Tips

While many of them simply indulge for mere experimentation, they tend to stop almost immediately after they do. However, for some variant reasons, others get immersed to the point they can no longer control their urges where now that becomes drug or substance abuse.

Who is to blame?

No doubt there are many reasons why our teenagers fall victim of drug and substance abuse and with the high rise of the same, it remains quite a challenge for parents especially to solely keep their kids on the right track. Nevertheless, without knowing the first step towards helping your teenager who has fallen victim of drug abuse, it can get quite devastating.

Sure we all want the best for our children, when and how they stray and end up succumbing to drug abuse is never certain. While there will be so many people out there blaming our kids’ wrong choices on our poor parenting, we can either get over their mediocre opinions and find solace for our kids or simply join the league and doom our kids to misery.

Signs of Drug abuse

While in the past you may have overlooked certain details and prompted your teen to claim too much freedom that ended up in tragedy, you should know you still stand a chance to reverse the odds. You may still not be sure whether your teen has succumbed to drug abuse and here are signs to look out for:-

· Red eyes and tiredness which could possibly be as a result of smoking marijuana.

· Less interest shown in school and poor performance in class.

· Rebellion.

· New friend’s circles who shows less interest in your teen’s school activities or their family.

What to do if your teen is abusing drugs

The good news is that, not all is lost. Today with the high escalation of drug and substance abuse, rehabilitation centers have risen at the very same pace. If you know someone who has succumbed to drug abuse, it would be wise to intervene now.

Again, as a parent, the sooner your teen learns about the detrimental effects of drug abuse, the better. The first step would be taking the time to find out as much information there is regarding rehabilitating your teen.

Benefits of teen rehabilitation

Mentally – Drugs intoxicate not just the body but the mind too. Undergoing a rehabilitation process helps the victim becomes mentally fit. The teenage after rehabilitation is able to make rational decisions and also get over anxiety and paranoia brought upon by drug abuse.

Physically- Drug abuse renders the body weak by causing damage to the skin, liver, heart and other parts of the body. Rehabilitation means staying in an environment where you shun the drugs and substances which made you weak in the first place. This move in the long-run accords the victim not just a clear healthy skin but also strong disposition and strong overall body functionality.

Emotionally- While most teen’s possible abuse for drugs evolves from a rather disturbed past, rehabilitation helps them emotionally deal with any disturbing issues. Here they are taught how to confront and deal with negative emotions rather than acting up on them.

Career wise- In essence, teenage drug abuse ravages career vision and future objectives. Rehabilitation helps them counter the evil menace of drug abuse and accords them an alert mind and better reasoning power. Someone who from drug abuse had lost their vision in life is able to reverse the odds and trend high. So yes, your dreams for your teen are still valid!