Combating mental illness and substance abuse

The more you learn about substance misuse, the better your understanding of why people begin to misuse substances in the first place. Sometimes substance abuse brings to light mental illness a person may not have realized he or she had.

Having two mental illnesses, known as co-morbidity, sounds like the snake swallowing its tail, the addiction and the mental health issues fueling each other. Both problems must be treated.

It’s difficult to help someone with their problems when they are intoxicated. Some 15 years ago it was believed that treatment needed to begin with the substance use, getting the client sober and keeping him or her sober, and then beginning to work on the other mental issues so they could recover their lives. But research for knowledge and understanding and development of better treatment has changed that line of thought.

“Integrated treatment for co-morbid drug use disorder and mental illness has been found to be consistently superior compared with separate treatment for each diagnosis,” says NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse.) The goal is “to boost interpersonal and coping skills and using approaches that support motivation and functional recovery.”

This isn’t an easy path for clients to take once they make up their minds that they want recovery. The risk of relapse is strong with emotional ups and downs as they work through their problems. This is a battle they will wage every day for the rest of their lives. The clients who struggle with mental health disorders as well as substance use disorder have a more difficult time recovering than those who have a substance use disorder without other mental health issues, says NIDA.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) advises, “Substance use disorder changes normal desires and priorities. It changes normal behaviors and interferes with the ability to work, go to school, and to have good relationships with friends and family.”

This source cites 2014 data that states 20.2 million U.S. adults had a substance use disorder and 7.9 million had both a substance use disorder and another mental illness; 4.1 million were men.

“Having two illnesses at the same time … can make treating each disorder more difficult.”

“Stability in recovery is contingent on achieving abstinence from substances as soon as possible and … the evidence suggests that patients maintain improvements longer in outpatient treatment when abstinence is achieved early on …”

“Treatment planning must begin at the level of interaction between the patient and the therapist because the treatment plan will only be effective if patients trust their therapist and are willing to cooperate …,” according to “Treatment of Substance Abusing Patients with Co-morbid Psychiatric Disorders” at PMC, U.S. National Library of Medicine- National Institutes of Health.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.)

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