Which came first, your mental illness or drug addiction problem?

Today, physicians across the country are seeing patients who suffer from a combination of drug addiction and mental health problems. Current research shows that as many as 60% of the people struggling with one of these conditions are likely wrestling with both. This is probably due to the fact that having either a mental health problem or a substance abuse problem makes the individual more susceptible to the other. A person who has a family history of mental health issues yet is not currently suffering with one may find that a condition develops if they choose to abuse drugs or alcohol. This is because having a biological or genetic susceptibility to any type of mental health problem, large or small, can be triggered by substance abuse.

This begs the question which came first, the mental health problem or the substance abuse problem? Many people who develop mental health issues while they are abusing drugs or alcohol likely had the mental health issue all along; it was merely brought to the surface because of their substance abuse. Because so many addicted persons are suffering with both substance abuse and mental health issues a new field of research has begun to explore these issues in combination. This field of research and addiction recovery is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.

Specialized drug rehab centers have been created to handle individuals with co-occurring disorders and have found great success at treating both concurrently. While handling the physical issues (withdrawal and detoxification) brought on by substance abuse is the initial objective, addressing the mental health issues alongside one’s recovery from drug or alcohol addiction has shown to effectively rehabilitate persons with co-occurring disorders.

Finding lasting sobriety is possible for people with dual diagnosis. However, their struggle may be more challenging as they need to maintain stable mental health and avoid a substance relapse. Having supportive family, friends and recovery specialists on hand will make the persons chances of success that much greater.

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