What is the Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse?

Mental illness and substance abuse are often seen simultaneously. This dual diagnosis occurs when a patient suffers from both disorders at the same time. There are several reasons why an individual may suffer from substance abuse, and it may or may not be tied to their mental health issues.

Structured living in a positive environment such as Affinity provides, is one way to treat the problem. Having daily support helps and benefit individuals who face this crisis.

Substance abuse + mental illness: the connection

According to studies, substance abuse problems that afflict a person simultaneously with mental health issues are quite common:
About 50 percent of individuals who suffer extreme mental disorders are also affected by substance abuse.
About 37 percent of those with a drinking problem and 53 percent of drug abusers are also mentally-unstable.
Among those diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent have recurring problems with either alcohol or drugs.

Getting treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems

Those with dual disorders benefit best when they are able to receive the proper medical treatments. Substance abuse is better confronted when one is in a stable mind. Without the distractions of their addictions, they are able to practice better self-control. Only then can proper progress ensue.
The problem with substance abuse could be the reaction to a stressful environment. Folks often use alcohol and drugs to ease other feelings, such as depression, hopelessness and boredom. In truth, an overdose of either alcohol or drugs does not solve the situation but rather, makes it worse. The side effects will have more long-term debilitating consequences than any initial relief the individual has felt.
Substance abuse has many negative consequences. But when combined with any medication the person is taking for their mental illness, it is even more dangerous, because it can trigger new symptoms. When a substance such as alcohol interacts with medications such as antidepressant pills and mood stabilizers, it can cause a bad reaction.

Denial and Substance Abuse

Those who suffer mental disorders are often in denial about their substance abuse. This could be for several reasons, but some of the most common ones we see are that the individual is afraid or ashamed to be seen as weak. Yet seeking help and admitting that there is a problem is merely the first step to recovery and a stable mind.
For co-occurring disorders, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder can be treated. This is called an integrated approach.
Depending on the person's personal situation and health issues, a treatment provider should be able to give:


  • Mental health treatments
  • Medication, counseling, guidance, and coaching through lifestyle changes, and peer support.
  • Substance abuse treatments
  • Provide assistance with learning to manage withdrawal symptoms, detoxification, behavioral therapy and support groups.

Seeking Help at Affinity Treatment centers

Affinity specializes in the treatment and care of dual diagnosis patients. Our comprehensive management environment is designed to focus on stabilizing the mental disorder so that you can approach the substance abuse issue with a clear mind.
If you or your loved one suffers from both mental illness and substance abuse, contact us about our dual diagnosis program. We look forward to assisting you in making vital and informed choices for the benefit of your loved ones.