It is not uncommon for medical conditions to occur in pairs or even clusters. For example, people who suffer from allergies may also have skin disorders or asthma. There are many other common medical pairings that can be explored further online, some of which you may already be familiar with. Less well known, however, are the psychological disorders that sometimes accompany the disease of addiction. Recognizing these conditions that can co-exist with addiction is essential to creating effective treatment programs for these disorders.
Addiction to alcohol is associated with a wide range of co-existing mental disorders. The physical effects of alcohol abuse are themselves socially disabling, but can be made worse by other mental health issues such as addiction to other drugs besides alcohol, development of manic behavior, the onset of dementia, schizophrenia or various states of mania. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcoholics are more than twenty times more likely to suffer from mental illness as those who are not alcoholic. Sometimes, these disorders develop as the result of heavy drinking, or they may have already existed before the onset of alcoholism and thereby became worse. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions, which can make the acting out of the symptoms of mental illness even more anti-social.
Because marijuana has been illegal almost everywhere for many years, there has not been enough research done to definitively determine what co-existing conditions may accompany heavy marijuana use. What research has been done has indicated a surprisingly high prevalence of schizophrenia among heavy marijuana users. This link, however, should be considered against the fact that schizophrenics in general are prone to substance abuse. It is estimated that nearly 50% of schizophrenics are also suffering from some form of drug addiction. Ironically, heavy marijuana use can result, at least in some people, with symptoms typically associated with a schizophrenic episode. That is why more research needs to be done in order to determine why marijuana is the drug that most schizophrenics seem to prefer.
People who have a problem with cocaine use often suffer from anxiety disorders. This may be related in part to the general effects of cocaine, which can create an effect of high confidence mixed with euphoria. At high doses, those effects may escalate into feelings of irrational paranoia and suspicion, frightening and disorienting visual and audio hallucinations, chronic insomnia and even a tendency towards violence. Fortunately, these symptoms usually fade once a period of sobriety has been achieved.
The most common mental illness associated with addiction to opiates is post-traumatic stress disorder. This is usually not a condition created by the addiction itself, but one which seems to lead to opioid abuse. That is because post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by exposure to extremely upsetting events, such as extreme abuse or injury, especially when considered life threatening. That is why domestic abuse and wartime environments are especially prone to the development of post traumatic stress disorder. Attempts to self-medicate with illegal opiates, or addictions that develop due to the prescription painkillers prescribed for the injuries received in the traumatizing event, can result in a potentially devastating combination of addiction and mental illness.
While heroin is a member of the opioid family of drugs and is often among the drugs sought after by those suffering from post-traumatic stress, heroin abuse in particular is also tied to those suffering from depression. This is perhaps understandable, considering heroin’s well-known effect of numbing emotional responses. To someone suffering from deep feelings of depression, heroin may seem to be an effective way to gain short term relief from overwhelming feelings of despair. Of course, the heroin does nothing to actually resolve the situations leading to the despair. In fact, heroin is likely in the long term to increase the length and intensity of the depression.
The Good News
Most of the co-occuring conditions that arise in the context of addiction can be relieved by obtaining long term sobriety. In most cases, some relief is experienced almost immediately upon cessation of the abused substance. That makes obtaining sobriety and maintaining it the single best treatment for mental disorders relating to addiction. For that reason, it is important when seeking treatment for patients to get help from a facility which is qualified and experienced to in developing a treatment program for co-occuring disorders that is specifically suited to whatever co-existing conditions apply to that person.