Invisible Ties: The Link Between Drug Abuse and Mental Disorders | Harbor Village - Harbor Village

Invisible Ties: The Link Between Drug Abuse and Mental Disorders

Drug addiction and mental illness- two invisible ailments, both of which society is quick to pass judgement for and reluctant to understand is woefully unaddressed, misrepresented, and inadequately heeded. Admitting to either comes with a stigma that is difficult to overcome, leading many to suffer in silence out of fear and shame. Unchecked mental illness and addiction can lead to homelessness, legal trouble, medical problems, or death, yet too often society seeks punishment rather than treatment.

“Mental illness is disproportionately represented within [the prison] system where half of all incarcerated individuals have a mental illness, compared to 11% of the population. Four of 10 inmates released from prison recidivate and are re-incarcerated within three years,” Samantha Hoke writes for the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. The statistics for addicts in the prison system is similarly disheartening- 65% of prisoners are diagnosed as having some sort of substance dependency, yet only 11% receive treatment. With numbers like these, the correlation between drug abuse and mental disorders seems inevitable.

According to the National Bureau for Economic Research, mental health patients account for 38% of the alcohol consumption in the U.S., as well as 44% of cocaine use and 40% of tobacco smokers. Substance abusers diagnosed with some form of mental disorder at some point in their life account for 69% of alcohol use, 84% of cocaine abuse, and 68% of tobacco smokers. These patients have turned to substance use and abuse as an escape from the difficulties of their lives in order to cope with what is often misdiagnosed, mistreated, or untreated mental disorders. They self-medicate to numb pain, ease anxieties, and release stress but despite their intent they are doing little to resolve the underlying source of their problems.

This leads to increased self-medication, stronger substances, and a decent down a dark and dangerous path many find difficult to deviate from, as they have come to think of their substance of choice as a necessity. Shame and dependency prevents sufferers from seeking help in recovering from their addiction and treating their mental illness; desperation can lead to theft, lewd acts, and other crimes that lead to imprisonment and forced detoxing, but upon release they relapse because they have not received proper treatment. It becomes a vicious, seemingly unbreakable cycle that too often ends in drug overdose, suicide, or murder.

Drug abuse and mental health disorders are correlated and often trigger one another. Treatments that address one without dealing with the other will lead to relapse and further difficulty as the patient becomes discouraged and unwilling to continue trying ineffective methods.

A two-fold approach that included proper medication, alternative methods of treatment such as physical activity and hobby building, and therapy to address the underlying issues offers the greatest chance for success. In the fight against the drug epidemic effecting the U.S. it is important to recognize the underlying intricacies and causes and treat them as well as helping the patient escape their substance dependency.


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