The connection between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The connection between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The word mental illness is a broader term, and substance abuse comes under this domain. Many people confuse it with mental illness. Substance abuse is a mental disorder that comes under addiction and substance abuse disorder. 

Mental illness and substance use disorder are co-relational that one may cause the other. Half of the population suffering from substance use disorder meet the criteria for mental illness and vice versa. The comorbidity in adults is high in research. Among 60% of the young population suffer from substance abuse disorder and are diagnosed with other mental illnesses.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has been finding supports in the result of comorbidity between substance abuse disorder and mental health problems. People who suffer from any psychological problem are at higher risk of substance abuse. It is observed that people with other mental problems, among them 69% are alcohol users, 44% of cocaine, and 40% of cigarettes. 

Comorbidity with other psychological problems.

This problem is co-morbid with other psychological problems. The higher comorbidity has been seen with anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Substance abuse disorder has a high prevalence of depression and bipolar. Substance abuse highly affects personality traits. High occurrence of personality disorder has been seen in addicted patients, which include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychotic illness, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. 

Schizophrenic patients also have an addicted background or gat a habit of addiction after this problem. They have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug consumption than the general population. Other than these, mentally disturbed people suffering from psychological problems also do non-medical use of prescription opioids. Few patients also have a history of non-medical use of painkillers to lower the pain in depression and anxiety. 

Risk Factors.

There are many risk factors for addiction. Normally it starts with adolescents. Adolescence is a crucial phase of life, and most of the cases of drug use start from adolescence. The adolescent has a struggling phase, and they need help with education, work, and relationship. When they fail to manage, they are more likely to engage in psychological problems that will lead to addiction.

There is a brain activity involved in addiction. The brain continues to develop with time, and the part dealing with the brain’s executive functions becomes the last to develop. This immaturity enhances the chances of an adolescent towards addiction and substance abuse. Drug use in adolescence means a higher risk of getting mental illness later in life. From different researches, it has been concluded that people having mental illness later in life sometimes, has a history of drug use. 

However, this is not the only cause of addiction. Genetic vulnerability, psychosocial experiences, general environmental influences, and life struggles may also cause addiction in later life.

Signs and symptoms.

Behavioral Signs.

Those who use the substance to its extreme level and become addicted to it have too much to suffer. They become irresponsible toward their duties. They become carefree from their work or jobs. Not just skipping job-related, home-related tasks or school work but also start running away from other responsibilities. Getting into fights or illegal activities becomes a habit for them.

No matter what they are going, driving, climbing stairs, or even in events, taking drugs is the only concern. The personality of drug addicts become suspicious. Their routine is disturbed. There is no time to sleep or wake, nor do they have any proper schedule. Their mood swings from happy to sad and to angry only depend on the availability of the drug.  

The overdose of drugs excites the nervous system and all the body systems, so the abusive person is always in a hyperactive mood. When the drug is the only thing in thoughts, there is no motivation.  

Physical signs.

Permanent over dosage of drug cause changing in normal mechanism of the body. The patient has bloodshot eyes, and his pupil size increases rapidly. Slimming and weight gain becomes abrupt due to hyperactivity of the body system. Physical appearance starts declining, and their senses start fading. All along, an addicted person is unresponsive towards their feeling.

Social signs.

With everything changing, relationships with friends or family will change as well. Their hobbies change too. They sometimes also start using abusive substances in public places or cause scenes when they are not in their right minds.

Financial problem is common among addicts. They will leave no money for their drug need. They keep using the substance once they get addicted to it. For them, there is no way back that results in problems in their relationships with their families.


Addicted patients often start using drugs to cure some of the disruptive or irritating symptoms resulting from any other psychological problem. At the start, the drug works properly. But after some time, they become addicted to the dose, and a higher draught is needed to relax them. This cycle continues for longer. They became addicted without any intention and their realization.

For example, depressed patients use marijuana to numb the feeling of pain and become addicted to it. Socially anxious people drink more in social gatherings to gain some confidence and become comfortable. Benzodiazepine keeps the nervous system calm so, people having panic attacks use self-prescribed medicines to avoid any mishap in a public place and ultimately become addicted. Low motivated people with weak bodies tend to use Adderall, cocaine, or crystal math to increase their drive to get things done.


There are proper rehab plans in rehabilitation centers, including medication and exercise. Back in time, physicians used to think that the only way to treat addiction is with medicines. Since the after results were not satisfactory, the field later came into psychologists’ and psychiatrists’ hands. But still, the studies show that there is a dire need for an integrated approach to treat addicted patients that include psychiatrists, psychologists, general physicians, neurologists, nutritionists, and physiotherapists. Although now, it is in practice and used in many rehab centers.

If you are suffering from mental health issues, go after professional help rather than take shortcuts. If you face an addiction problem or someone you know is suffering from addiction, go after proper treatment, and help others fight this problem.

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