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Addiction, Mental Health and Your Brain

There’s often more to addiction treatment than just treating addiction. Addiction frequently co-occurs with one or more mental health conditions, and treating them together in a coordinated and integrated way, leads to the best outcomes.

Sometimes multiple conditions arise independently, but they’re often connected. There are different ways that substance use disorders and other disorders of the brain can interact. They can both stem from the same cause, the mental health condition can contribute to or worsen a substance use disorder, or substance use can contribute to or worsen a mental health condition. A dual diagnosis treatment center can help provide relief from symptoms of co-occurring disorders.

Addiction and Mental Health Go Hand-In-Hand

Addiction stems from biological, psychological, and social contributing factors. Some of these factors may also contribute to other conditions. One study found that people with a genetic predisposition to mental illness were also at higher risk for substance abuse. Highly stressful life experiences can also contribute to many conditions, especially early in life.

Many substances mimic the body’s natural processes and, in turn, latch onto the receptors designed for the body’s own chemicals. Heroin and other opioid drugs like prescription painkillers work this way. Other drugs work in the brain to increase the effects of natural neurotransmitters.

Sometimes a mental health condition causes an imbalance in neurotransmitter levels. Certain substances seem to temporarily cause relief. So, it’s easy to understand why people would turn to substances to manage their symptoms. Unfortunately, this can lead to an addiction, and the way the body adapts can lead to even greater imbalances in the brain and body over time.

Substance Use Can Worsen Mental Health Conditions

The body is always trying to maintain balance. It reacts when it senses imbalances, such as those occurring in substance abuse. The body releases a lower amount of its own chemicals, which can lead to long-term problems.

Some mental health symptoms are related to dopamine levels. The abuse of all drugs initially raises dopamine. The rise in dopamine is part of what makes substances addictive. As the body reacts to the use of the substance over time, dopamine levels fall. This is only one example of substances affecting neurotransmitters, but it is substantial.

Addiction and Anxiety

Anxiety disorders involve intense feelings of fear and distress in situations that aren’t objectively threatening. You may feel tense, restless, irritable, apprehensive, or overly vigilant. You may also have physical symptoms like a racing or pounding heart, sweating, tremors, headaches, shortness of breath, upset stomach, or insomnia. 

There are multiple types of anxiety disorders. For example, social anxiety disorder involves fear about interactions with other people. People may worry about saying the wrong thing or otherwise embarrassing themselves. It can cause people to avoid social situations and interactions.

One review of the literature on the co-occurrence of anxiety and substance use disorders and how it affects mental health and addiction treatment. They note that the conditions are among the most frequent psychiatric problems in the United States and co-occur at high rates.

In most cases (at least 75%), the anxiety disorder was present before the substance use disorder arose. Once both exist, however, they tend to significantly influence one another. People with anxiety disorder have higher relapse rates after addiction treatment, and people with substance use disorders are more likely to experience recurrence of their anxiety symptoms. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Addiction and Mental Health

The most effective dual diagnosis treatment programs, like The Right Step Hill Country, use a coordinated approach that involves both mental health and addiction experts. This level of care is known as an integrated treatment or dual track program.

It’s essential to find a program that offers this level of care, as each condition needs to be addressed for successful recovery. Contact The Right Step Hill Country today by calling 1.844.675.1628 to get started.

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