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Addiction and Mental Illness: Which Comes First?

Addiction can be a complex puzzle. There is not a single cause, nor a single solution. Every person’s experience is slightly different. It is not uncommon for those struggling with drug addiction to also have a mental health disorder or mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is well known that addiction affects both the body and the mind. However, this may leave you wondering, which issue comes first: the drug addiction or the mental illness?

There is not always a clear answer. The two conditions can be closely intertwined and share overlapping symptoms. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with mental health problems and others develop mental health problems following addiction. One does not necessarily cause the other but can be a contributing factor. In fact, drug addiction is considered a mental illness because of how it affects and changes the brain.

When Drug Addiction Occurs First

People misuse drugs and alcohol for various reasons. Sometimes it’s out of curiosity or peer pressure and other times it develops from prescription drugs following serious illness or injury. Whatever the reason, use becomes more frequent and in greater quantities. As addiction develops, it changes the way the brain functions and processes information. The effects can be similar to those of mental illness or can amplify symptoms that may not have been as prominent or noticeable before.

With continued substance abuse, people may develop depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and other issues. This can be a result of how the drugs have affected both their brain and their life. These challenges can make it more difficult to overcome addiction without professional treatment at a Los Angeles rehab center.

When Mental Illness Occurs First

Some people turn to substance abuse as a way of self-medicating when they have a mental health disorder. Drugs or alcohol can temporarily ease symptoms and provide relief. However, drugs can also have the opposite effect and end up making symptoms worse. Whereas initially someone may feel calmer and more relaxed, as these effects wear off, they may become more agitated and anxious. In an effort to keep symptoms at bay, they may start using drugs more frequently leading to drug addiction or alcohol addiction.

Treating a Dual Diagnosis

In some cases, it’s hard to say which came first or what the relationship between the two are. But what is known is that both exist concurrently. When a person has a diagnosis of both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, they are said to have co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis.

Previously co-occurring disorders were treated separately. Either the mental illness was treated first and then the drug addiction, or vice versa. However, researchers have found that treating both conditions simultaneously more effectively supports recovery. They each affect multiple aspects of a person’s life and impact one another, so it makes sense to treat them together. This also helps the client to better understand how the two are interrelated and how it affects their wellbeing.

Top rated drug rehab centers incorporate treatment approaches that address physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Recovery is about more than just abstaining from using drugs or alcohol; it requires changes in thought patterns and routines. Executive rehab centers offer a variety of evidence-based and holistic therapies and activities to promote healing and reduce risk of relapse. For those clients who do have a dual diagnosis, they offer targeted treatment plans that encompass therapy and resources to deal with both issues.

If you do have co-occurring disorders, you want to find a Los Angeles rehab center trained in treating both. You don’t want to have a heroin addiction and bipolar disorder and go to a facility that is not equipped to treat those specific conditions. It is important to do some research and look into what each facility offers and how it can effectively address your individual needs.

Risks of Not Treating Addiction and Mental Illness Together

If you only treat one condition and not the other, you run the risk of increasing risk of relapse. Even if you get your drinking or drug use under control, lingering mental health problems can drive you back to addiction. And even if you address mental illness, the effects of addiction can exacerbate symptoms and bring them back to the forefront.

It is ideal to treat them simultaneously so that you can recognize and cope with any challenges this might bring up and develop more effective ways of preventing relapse. These approaches will be based on your individual needs and how a dual diagnosis impacts your life. Your battle with cocaine addiction and depression may not be the same as someone else’s. You may have different underlying problems and factors that contribute to these conditions and the challenges you face. A personalized treatment plan can help to address these issues and allow you to figure out what works best for you.

Regardless of whether drug addiction or mental illness came first, treatment is essential.  Chapters Capistrano offers the dual diagnosis services that you need to support more effective recovery and create a healthier lifestyle. For more information and to find out if a dual diagnosis program is right for you or your loved one, contact Chapters Capistrano at 888-973-0230.