The Relationship Between Mental Health and Addiction

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Addiction



The Relationship Between Mental Health and Addiction

During my college years, I’d see students use alcohol or other drugs to keep up with the stress and anxiety of college life. It was the go-to medicine for frustration, disappointment, broken hearts and anger management. These observations soon became a close-to-home reality of mine when a classmate told me he didn’t feel comfortable having a meaningful conversation with anyone without drinking whiskey.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reports that there is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances” and that mental health disorder patients are responsible for the consumption of:

-38 percent of alcohol
-44 percent of cocaine
-40 percent of cigarettes

While there are multiple variables that play into why a person becomes susceptible to drugs and alcohol, mental illness is one of the main reasons behind addicts. While some people temporarily pick up these habits, others continue to self medicate without realizing the potential harm this continuous cycle could bring into their lives over time.

According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (PDF | 3.4 MB), approximately 7.9 million adults had co-occurring disorders in 2014.

According to, some examples/ indicators of self medicating include:

-An individual from social anxiety who drinks to feel more comfortable in social situations
-An individual who struggles with panic attacks and takes benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium to calm the symptoms or stop the attacks before they start
-An individual with low energy and lack of motivation who takes Adderall, cocaine or crystal meth to increase their drive to get things done

Like my college friend, people tend to look for a practical way to cope with life and use alcohol or other addictive substances to deal with a variety of mental health problems. Oftentimes, these people end up suffering from depression in the end because their mental illness continues to go untreated through these temporary, but dangerous fixes.

During this time, my friend didn't know he had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). He knew that drinking helped him "feel normal" and interact with other people but what he didn't realize was how having to drink to be and feel "normal" would lead to alcoholism.

Addressing mental health problems early on can undoubtedly prevent addiction and alcoholism for many people. When addiction is present, taking care of the underlying psychological or psychiatric problems that control your loved one could potentially save their life. If we don't eliminate the underlying issues of addiction, individuals will continue to self-medicate and the road to recovery will become more difficult to reach.

By, Mari & Reighan

The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

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