A certain percentage of people who try drugs or alcohol stand a chance of becoming addicted, but for those with psychological disorders, like depression, anxiety or schizophrenia, that number can climb to as high as eighty percent. Addiction and mental illness often go hand in hand, in fact, fifty percent of the people who seek treatment for addiction ALSO have a mental disorder. Addiction is a complex brain disease that involves compulsive and often uncontrollable cravings for a substance or behavior. People who are addicted will do almost anything to satisfy that craving, even if it results in tragic consequences. What accounts for such destructive behavior? Addiction changes the brain's structure and the way it functions. It deteriorates the SAME areas of the brain that malfunction in many mental illnesses. While scientists are STILL trying to understand the connection, we do know that people with psychological conditions are at greater risk for developing an addiction. Here's how the numbers stack up: 20 to 50 percent of people with depression or anxiety ALSO have an addiction. For people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or antisocial personality, addiction affects between 40 to 80 percent. The question here is: Does drug abuse LEAD to mental illness, or are people with mental illnesses MORE SUSCEPTIBLE to addiction? Some research shows that people with schizophrenia, for instance, are more sensitive to the effects of drugs, and that they may become addicted more quickly. Other studies show that people with a particular gene are more likely to develop schizophrenia if they smoke marijuana regularly. If you have schizophrenia in your family tree, you MIGHT want to warn your family members about the possible connection. People who have a mental illness may also try to treat their symptoms by taking mood-altering substances. For example, take depression: people who are clinically depressed have a hard time getting pleasure out of things that most people find enjoyable. That's because their brain's so-called reward system isn't functioning properly. Mood-altering drugs can temporarily stimulate that area of the brain, allowing depressed people to feel better -at least momentarily. Because they feel so bad normally, depressed people might be more likely than people without mental illnesses to chase after that feeling. Chronic drug use can also WORSEN the symptoms of mental illness. Alcohol is a well-known depressant. Abusing it can lead to major depression. Methamphetamine abuse can cause anxiety, paranoia and psychosis. Overusing marijuana is sometimes associated with anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and in some cases, schizophrenia. People who suffer from mental illness AND addiction stand the best chance of getting sober if they treat both conditions simultaneously. Learning how to deal with the difficult emotions of mood disorders is paramount to staying sober. When looking for a substance abuse program or counselor, make SURE they are licensed in treating emotional disorders as well. The failure to treat a disorder can SIGNIFICANTLY jeopardize a patient's chances of success, so if you, or someone you love may be suffering from addiction and/or a mental condition, please seek help immediately!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012