Drug addiction is a mental disorder that causes people to crave a drug and find it almost impossible to stop using it even when they want to. Psychiatric research has discovered that other types of mental illnesses are often found in people who also suffer from addiction. When these two different conditions interact, they tend to make each condition worse than it would be alone. This state is called “comorbidity.” People with comorbid conditions require special consideration and treatment methods to address their unique needs (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
What causes comorbid conditions?
There has been a great deal of analyzing why addiction and mental illness frequently occur in the same person. Some research suggests that addiction and mental illness lead to one another. The traumatic life of an addict might cause additional mental illnesses to develop. By the same token, people with a mental illness might turn to drug abuse in an attempt to cope with their problems.
On the other hand, studies have also suggested that addiction and mental illness tend to have the same types of causes, so that people at risk for one are actually at risk for both. For example, someone who is genetically predisposed to a mental illness might also be predisposed to addiction by the same genes. Alternatively, the same environmental triggers might be responsible for both conditions. An individual who experiences enough stress and mental trauma to suffer a mental illness might also develop an addiction as another direct result.
How are both conditions treated?
Because mental illness and addiction are so intertwined, treatment for each condition must be tailored to address them both at the same time. Behavioral therapies have proven effective in helping patients acquire new life skills to better handle stress and resist environmental triggers that cause drug cravings or mental health relapses. Therapists can choose from a wide range of available treatments to best fit the patient’s individual needs. Most therapies are designed to target a specific age range. For example, Brief Strategic Family Therapy is most effective for adolescents, while Assertive Community Treatment is more effective for adults.
Medication can also be a powerful tool when treating both mental illness and drug addiction at the same time. For example, the prescription medication bupropion, known by such brand names as Wellbutrin and Zyban, can be used to treat both depression and nicotine addiction. Recent research suggests that it can also help reduce cravings for methamphetamine. However, there is still more research needed to discover how existing medications for mental illness and addiction will interact with comorbid conditions.
People with both drug and mental disorders need specialized care to give them a chance at recovery. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness and drug addiction, there are treatment centers catering to those specific needs. Call the Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline at any time and take the first step toward recovery.