There’s a well-known saying among those who work in the treatment field: “Addiction isn’t about alcohol and drugs. It’s the absence of self. This absence is described as a hole in your soul. You can’t love others when you’re empty inside. Recovery peels back the painful layers and heals that hole through connection, honesty, and hard work. To love oneself is the beginning of a lifetime of recovery.”
Drug or alcohol abuse is often only the tip of the iceberg, a mask covering up significant mental health issues, trauma, or complicated feelings. Clinicians and mental health professionals understand how substance abuse and mental health conditions often go hand-in-hand.
However, most others do not realize how enmeshed the two are together; staying sober means addressing the underlying mental health issues.
The Relationship Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Substance use disorders (SUDs) rarely exist on their own. According to a report commissioned by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 50% of those treated for SUDs also have an underlying mental health disorder. Without proper treatment of these underlying disorders, drugs and alcohol become a way to self-medicate and cope with complicated feelings.
The same report highlights that SUDs are pervasive among those living with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. For those living with mental health disorders, substances help numb their sense, calm their mind, and relax their body.
Occasional use of substances quickly becomes substance abuse when individuals don’t have healthy coping mechanisms to handle challenging moments. The more often they use substances to cope, the more substances they need to use to achieve the same effect.
In other instances, long-term drug or alcohol use may trigger mental health problems. For example, certain substances may cause a serotonin deficiency which can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Other substances can lead to psychosis, which can last even after drug use has stopped.
What Are the Benefits of Dual-Diagnosis Treatment?
While 50% of those with SUDs have an underlying mental health disorder, another statistic is just as alarming. Individuals with severe mental health disorders are more likely to have a substance abuse problem than their peers. In addition, these individuals have a more challenging path to recovery because of the dual diagnoses.
In the past, drug and alcohol treatment centers have focused solely on detox and encouraging clients to stay sober. Unfortunately, focusing only on substance abuse and not on underlying mental health disorders and other diagnoses can lead to relapse.
Luckily, there is hope. Nowadays, more treatment centers have started to address the mental health issues that have led to substance abuse during treatment. As a result, dual diagnoses have become more commonplace in substance abuse treatment.
There are numerous benefits to finding treatment centers that specialize in dual diagnoses.
For those living with co-occurring disorders, such as SUDs and mental health disorders, flexible treatment programs offer the highest chance of success. Inpatient treatment centers that provide a personalized combination of holistic and evidence-based psychotherapy are more helpful for long-term recovery success than other treatment approaches.
Customized treatment allows individuals with dual diagnoses to learn how their mental health disorders and substance abuse interact and feed off each other. By understanding the relationship between the two, people are more likely to be able to break the cycle.
Developing Coping Mechanisms
The studies shared above detail how many people who develop SUDs do so because they use drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. Therefore, another benefit of dual diagnoses is learning coping mechanisms to navigate mental health symptoms, painful emotions, and crisis moments.
Individuals with dual diagnoses can handle challenging moments without turning to drugs or alcohol by learning how to integrate healthy coping mechanisms into their daily lives.
Finding Support Networks
The path to sobriety is complex and overwhelming at times. Therefore, community and support networks are vital for people journeying toward sobriety.
While there are many support groups for those in recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-Step programs, treatment centers often offer their own. Often called alumni networks, these groups are composed of current clients, former clients, and staff members who can provide unique perspectives on recovery.
There is still a worldwide stigma surrounding mental health. Unfortunately, this stigma also exists among those who are recovering. Not every program or support group understands the role mental health may play in substance abuse, nor may they know how improving mental health may decrease the desire to use drugs or alcohol. However, alumni networks do. When nurturing mental well-being to nurture sobriety, a little support goes a long way.
Drug and alcohol abuse and mental health often go hand-in-hand. Your use of substances may be masking severe mental health problems. To nurture your sobriety, you need to address these disorders. While this may seem like a daunting task, you don’t have to do it alone. First Steps Recovery in Clovis, California, offers evidence-based and holistic treatment from highly-trained professionals who understand the importance of treating the root cause of substance abuse. From the moment you walk in our door, you aren’t just another client; you become part of our family. Our mental health and drug rehabilitation team will create a personalized treatment plan that addresses the heart of your hurt, provides skills that promote lasting healing, and creates a community that expounds hope. We pursue long-term recovery by nurturing mental well-being in safe environments. Call us today at (844) 489-0836 to learn more.