If you have lived or worked with someone struggling with drug addiction, you may have noticed that they often struggle with other mental health problems. Many drug users are frequently afflicted with problems like depression, anxiety, or unaddressed trauma.
When addiction occurs in conjunction with another mental health problem, the issues are collectively referred to as co-occurring disorders. Understanding the nature of co-occurring disorders can be immensely useful for helping people overcome their issues, and for assisting professionals to address these issues properly.
Why Does Addiction So Often Occur With Other Conditions?
It’s no secret that many drug addicts also struggle with other mental health problems. There are several reasons that this may be the case.
One of the main reasons for this is because many people turn to drugs because they already have a mental health problem that they are unable, or unwilling, to manage.
People who live in disadvantaged areas, for example, often grow up with mental health problems simply because of the way that they are raised. A lack of services, proper parenting, or other factors could lead people to develop issues like anxiety and depression.
Unfortunately, in this particular instance, the problems would not stop there. Because of the lack of services and facilities available for people in disadvantaged areas, these people wouldn’t be able to seek treatment for these issues. They likely wouldn’t receive proper education about mental health problems, either.
For many people, it’s merely the easiest to turn to illegal drugs as a form of self-medication than it is to find treatment for mental health problems. Even people who live in suburban areas may find that they would rather use illegal drugs than deal with the medical or psychiatric system – for fear of judgment or something similar.
Another reason that co-occurring disorders are so common is that drugs tend to cause mental health problems (or at least bring about underlying mental health issues). People who abuse stimulant drugs, for example, are liable to develop issues with depression. People who abuse anxiolytics, such as benzodiazepines, may develop crippling anxiety problems.
How to Manage Co-Occurring Disorders
One of the most important things for a trained addiction counselor or psychiatrist to recognize is the importance of co-occurring disorders. Understanding how a patient’s disorders interact is key to helping them overcome their problem.
For example, an individual struggling with severe social anxiety and drug addiction would benefit from a different treatment plan than, say, someone struggling with PTSD.
The individual with social anxiety may need to seek treatment in a more isolated setting and develop the tools and skills to help them learn how to engage socially. The individual with PTSD would need to learn about their trauma, their triggers, and what mechanisms cause them to indulge in drugs.
Co-occurring disorders are a fairly common issue among people who use drugs, and the best thing that you can do to help the issue is to learn to understand both issues. If you or a loved one struggles with a co-occurring disorder, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.
Written by Nigel Ford