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Mental Health and Addiction: A Troubling Relationship

Neither mental health nor addiction exists in a vacuum. For many people, struggling with both seems like a grim fact of life. To overcome either, individuals need to start with a strong base of knowledge.

At Paramount Recovery Centers, a community focused on mental health and addiction treatment in Massachusetts, we want all of our clients and their loved ones to feel empowered to change. Let’s explore how addiction plays into mental health and vice versa with statistics and what treatment options are available for people that need help with both.

How Addiction Plays Into Mental Health in Massachusetts

To help us understand how addiction interacts with mental health, let’s look at some statistics given by the Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • 37% of people struggling with alcohol addiction have at least one form of mental illness.
  • 53% of people struggling with drug dependency, whether they’re prescription or illicit substances, have one or more mental health disorders.

Those are staggering numbers, but why do those statistics exist? Let’s look at alcohol abuse first.

Alcohol Abuse Affects Serotonin

Alcohol is a nervous system depressant. It slows down everything from heart and breathing rates to brain activity and memory formation. However, it also acts on another important biological factor: the body’s use of serotonin.

Serotonin is the body’s natural mood stabilizer. When one nerve sends serotonin to another nerve, it calms, relaxes, and makes us less stressed. In the short term, alcohol can actually stimulate serotonin and make drinkers happier.

That happiness is often short-lived. After dumping all of its serotonin during a drinking binge, the body is left with a severely decreased amount of it. According to researchers, this can turn into chronically low serotonin levels. This can cause depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Drug Abuse Affects Brain Functions

Many drugs are, like alcohol, depressants. This includes benzodiazepines, prescription painkillers, and opioids like heroin. These have similar effects on the body’s use of serotonin, but the story doesn’t end there.

Different types of drugs act on different parts of the brain. For instance, MDMA affects the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good after doing something. Stimulants like cocaine also make users feel rewarded in the short term by acting on other parts of the brain.

After chronic use of any of these substances, the brain changes. In the long-term, these changes can turn into mental disorders such as:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Neurosis
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders

People with no previous record of mental illness may show signs of it after addiction. When this occurs, the two illnesses feed each other. Seeking help for both is vital.

How Mental Health Plays Into Addiction in Massachusetts

On the other side, people with existing mental health disorders may be more prone to addiction. Statistics from the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said:

  • People with existing mental health disorders are twice as likely to develop an addiction than the general population.
  • More than 20% of people suffering from mental illness have a diagnosed substance abuse disorder.
  • Of people suffering from schizophrenia, as many as 50% of them also live with a substance abuse disorder.

But what might make people with mental health disorders more prone to addiction?

Some people have no access to mental health assistance and use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, almost 50% of people suffering from PTSD and trauma-related mental health crises also meet the criteria for having a substance abuse disorder.

Mental health disorders including bipolar disorder also come with poor impulse control. These two factors alone make those suffering from mental health problems prone to addiction.

What It All Means: Dual Diagnosis

No matter whether mental illness or addiction came first, suffering from both at the same time is called a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 17 million adults in the US have a dual diagnosis.

For those people, life can often be a struggle. Answers and solutions aren’t simple, but fortunately, there are a wealth of programs available that address both mental health disorders and addiction.

IOP: Treatment Options That Address Mental Health and Addiction

In 2019, the CDC reported that 19% of people saw a therapist for help in the past year. In 2018, about 21 million people needed substance abuse counseling. When those groups overlap, there is a solution: intensive outpatient programs or IOP.

In IOP, people suffering from mental illness and addiction work individually with mental health and addiction specialists. They also attend group sessions with people suffering from dual diagnoses just like them. With this combination of treatments, they:

  • Learn about the mechanics of addiction and mental health disorders
  • Work on day-to-day coping skills
  • Have a safety net of caring, informed individuals
  • Find medications suitable for their issues if needed
  • Find structure in sometimes hectic lives

Unlike residential rehab or inpatient treatment, people in an IOP still live at home and aren’t isolated from friends and family. They can still go to work, but they attend sessions multiple times a week for a few hours at a time.

At Paramount Recovery Centers, we offer evening IOP in Massachusetts for people that work during the day or have other obligations. To give people access to treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic, we also began offering virtual IOP. Because people need comfortable safe spaces to open up and overcome addiction and mental health disorders, we also offer separate men’s IOP in Massachusetts and women’s IOP in Massachusetts.

No matter the nature of your addiction, mental health disorder or dual diagnosis, Paramount Recovery offers addiction treatment in Massachusetts tailored to each individual client. Together, we can help you or a loved one find joy and serenity in everyday life. For more information, contact us today.

Paramount Recovery Center’s Substance Use Disorder Treatment in MA for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

When you come to Paramount Recovery Centers IOP in Massachusetts, we aim to make you feel as welcome as possible. We recognize that many individuals dependent on drugs or alcohol struggle to deal with trauma, rage, guilt, or anxiety. We will do everything possible to make guests feel at ease and secure.

We provide various options for men’s and women’s IOP in MA, including Virtual IOP and Evening IOP. You can learn more about our intensive outpatient program by giving us a call or reaching us through our online contact form.

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