The Relationship Between Addiction and Mental Illness
Addiction and mental health are two of the most common disorders in America, but their prevalence has done little to erode the negative stigma associated with them. As if an unpopular public perception wasn’t challenging enough, there is also a fundamental lack of comprehensive treatment options available to those suffering. USA Today is doing its part to help raise awareness of this uphill battle with a series of recent spotlight pieces on the issue.
The correlation between addiction and mental illness
According to Ron Manderscheid, executive director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, studies show about two-thirds of people who have a substance abuse condition also have a mental health condition. All told, the USA Today piece states there are nearly nine million reported adults in the U.S. simultaneously suffering from both.
Despite the clear association between addiction and mental illness, few treatment facilities offer treatment programs that address both issues. It is a disconcerting notion, especially considering addiction itself can be categorized as a mental health issue.
Society’s misunderstanding of addiction and mental illness
People don’t choose to be mentally ill. Similarly, nobody wants to become addicted to a harmful substance. Regardless of whether an addict originally tries drugs or alcohol voluntarily, physiological changes within the brain ultimately happen. These changes challenge an addicted person’s self-control and erode their ability to resist urges to use. This is why The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as “a chronic, often relapsing brain disease.”
Unfortunately, one of the common denominators between mental illness and addiction is the negative perception of the afflicted. More often than not, people with mental disorders and unbreakable addictions are viewed as degenerates rather than victims; instead of empathy and understanding, they are met with judgment and disdain.
Ensuring early and effective treatment
In order to begin reversing those stereotypes, more effective treatment options need to be made available at an earlier stage, otherwise those suffering simply aren’t getting a fair chance.
Pat Kennedy, a former U.S. representative who has endured his own battles with addiction and bipolar disorder, compares the way our insurance systems treat addicts and mental health patients to the way we address other health issues.
“The way we pay for treatment of addiction and mental illness, you would be waiting until you have Stage IV cancer before you begin chemotherapy,” says Kennedy. “But that is often how we reimburse for mental health and addiction treatment.”
Some states have already made efforts to remedy the situation Kennedy is referring to, offering up legislative proposals for things like mandating health insurance coverage of addiction treatment programs, and switching from punitive legal action to a more rehabilitative approach. However, it is equally important to ensure that those programs and treatment facilities are taking care to address all of a patient’s issues, including mental health. As statistics show, addiction and mental illness are inevitably intertwined, and it’s time to break the artificial divide when it comes to their treatment.
Getting the comprehensive treatment you deserve
At The Watershed, we understand that addiction is a mental health issue, which is why every one of our patients undergoes a mental health evaluation. In order to overcome addiction, it is essential to understand what other disorders may be contributing to or developing from it.
Regardless of public perception, the truth of the matter is that addiction is a disease, and only by understanding its full scope can one find lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction or substance abuse, get the help you deserve today. Call The Watershed at 1-800-861-1768.Tags: addiction research, mental health illness