One of the most misunderstood aspects of drug addiction is its physiological basis. Addiction is a neurological disease – a condition brought about by irreparable changes to a person’s brain chemistry which requires clinical treatment. Overcoming substance abuse is therefore not a matter of willpower or strictly psychological therapy as many laypeople believe.
However, there are a number of mental illnesses which drive their victims to use drugs and develop addictions. Unfortunately, many people don’t discover these conditions within themselves until they form addictions and attend counseling and other therapies. A better understanding of these mental disorders can help addicts maintain sobriety, but it can also help prevent sufferers from forming addictions in the first place. Here are some of the mental illnesses commonly associated with drug abuse.
Depression and drug addiction often co-occur in a vicious cycle. People with pre-existing hormone imbalances may frequently experience deep sadness and despair. To alleviate or mask these feelings, they consume alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and other drugs which produce strong euphoric feelings. When they come down from these “highs,” they are just as depressed as before, if not more so. They consume ever-larger amounts of these substances to stay high until they develop physical dependencies. Their addictions lead them to destroy their careers, lose their friends, and alienate their families – all consequences which make depression even worse.
According to the National Comorbidity Study, people with anxiety disorders are two to three times as likely as the average person to struggle with drug addiction. As with depression, anxiety and drug addiction often occur in cycles. People who suffer from chronic fear or panic attacks may use calming substances such as alcohol or opiates to alleviate their symptoms. They enter into states of constant alternation between overwhelming anxiety and deep euphoria – states which quickly lead to abuse and addiction.
Anxiety disorder can also make post acute withdrawal syndrome much more difficult for recovering addicts to endure. Most addicts – whether they suffer from acute anxiety or not – report feelings of anxiety during their recoveries. Those who have this co-occurring condition are particularly vulnerable to panic attacks and high stress levels as they try to avoid cravings and compromising situations. It is imperative that these addicts develop effective coping mechanisms for the cravings that will inevitably arise.
Many researchers now believe that drug use can exacerbate or even cause schizophrenia – a condition characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, and acute mental disarray. Alcohol, cocaine, meth, and marijuana have all been associated with schizophrenia, and a majority of schizophrenics abuse these drugs. Some addiction specialists specifically blame heavy marijuana use on patients’ schizophrenic tendencies. Because of the ethical issues surrounding drug experimentation, however, it is nearly impossible for medical professionals to find out for sure whether these substances actually cause people to develop schizophrenia.
Overall, these mental illnesses can make it much more difficult for addicts and non-addicts alike to avoid drugs. If you or someone you know if struggling with drugs or alcohol, use the links below to get help now. Our dedicated addiction specialists are standing by day and night to give you a toll-free, no-obligation consultation.