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The Impact of Substance Use Disorder on Mental Health


Nearly 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year, making mental health a significant concern for many people. That being said, you or someone you know will likely deal with mental health issues at some point in time. Although there is no one cause of mental illness, the use of drugs or alcohol may play a role in its development. For those struggling with substance use disorder, mental health issues may be even more pronounced. Therefore, it is vital to recognize the correlation between substance use disorder and mental health and discover the treatment options that are available.

What is Substance Use Disorder?

Before analyzing substance use disorder and its potential impacts on mental health, it is essential to understand what the disorder entails. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic and complex condition characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol use despite the harmful consequences it may cause. SUD involves changes in the brain’s reward system and may lead to drug tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and difficulty controlling substance use.

This disorder may have a profound impact on an individual’s physical, mental, and social well-being. Additionally, a substance use disorder may lead to an array of problems, including health issues, legal and financial problems, and difficulties in personal relationships. Fortunately, SUD is a treatable condition, and treatment typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups.

The Relationship Between Substance Use and Mental Health

Mental health and substance use are closely linked, and the relationship between the two can be complex and bidirectional. Substance use may exacerbate underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. It may also lead to the development of new mental health issues, such as psychosis and mood disorders. This is because certain substances may impact brain chemistry, altering the balance of neurotransmitters and leading to changes in mood, behavior, and cognitive functioning.

At the same time, mental health issues may also contribute to developing a substance use disorder. Individuals with mental health issues may use substances to self-medicate or to cope with stress, negative emotions, or other challenges. However, substance use may worsen these issues and make them more difficult to manage over time.

Moreover, substance use can impair judgment and may increase the risk of suicide, self-harm, and other dangerous behaviors, especially among individuals with underlying mental health conditions. Consequently, it is essential to address substance use and mental health issues in treatment to ensure the best possible outcomes for individuals struggling with these challenges.

Ways to Overcome Substance Abuse and Improve Mental Health

Overcoming substance use disorder and improving mental health involves a comprehensive and individualized approach. Treating a substance use disorder won’t happen overnight and often requires a bit of trial and error to find the right treatment plan. However, the following steps may help support your recovery and improve your mental health:

Seek Professional Help

Substance use disorder and mental health issues are treatable conditions, and seeking professional help is often the first step toward recovery. Working with a qualified mental health professional can help individuals identify underlying issues, develop coping mechanisms, and learn healthy ways to manage stress and negative emotions. Additionally, qualified mental health professionals can provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to discuss their concerns and voice their feelings.

Participate in Therapy

Therapy is an effective way to address SUD and mental health issues, as it can provide individuals with the support they need to identify and address underlying problems. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular form of talk therapy that assists individuals in developing healthy coping strategies and exploring the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contributing to substance use or mental health issues. Other forms of therapy, such as family and group therapy, may also be beneficial.

Develop a Support System

Building a strong support system that consists of family, friends, and others in recovery may provide individuals with the guidance and motivation needed to stay on track with substance use recovery and mental health goals. Joining a support group or connecting with people who have similar goals and experiences allows individuals to lean on each other in times of need and provides a sense of community. Battling a substance use disorder or mental health issue alone can be daunting and overwhelming, so it is important to have support from others.

Practice Self-care

Self-care refers to any activity or practice an individual engages in to improve their physical, mental, or emotional well-being. Putting self-care first can help individuals refocus energy on their substance use recovery and mental health goals, as well as provide an opportunity to practice healthy coping strategies. Examples of self-care may include:

From boosting your immune system to strengthening relationships and managing stress, self-care has a plethora of benefits that may improve SUD recovery and mental health outcomes. Therefore, it is important to make time for yourself and prioritize self-care. Try to block out time in your schedule specifically to do something that brings you joy and relaxes your mind.

Consider Medication-assisted Treatment

Even though therapy and other forms of SUD treatment are effective, medication-assisted treatment may be necessary for some individuals. Through medication management, individuals can receive medications that may help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and improve their chances of recovering from substance use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment is often used in conjunction with therapy and support groups, providing individuals with a comprehensive approach to treatment.

While medication-assisted treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution, it can be an effective treatment option for certain individuals, particularly those who have struggled with addiction for a long time or who have relapsed after previous attempts at recovery. It is crucial to work closely with a qualified mental health professional to determine if medication-assisted treatment is the right option and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Don’t Do It Alone: Seek Treatment with Mile High Psychiatry

Mile High Psychiatry is now offering mental health services in Arizona. Our team of experienced mental health professionals provides comprehensive and personalized care, including medication management, therapy, and support groups. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder or mental health issues in Arizona, Mile High Psychiatry can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step toward a greater sense of mental well-being.

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