What Mental Illness and Drug Addiction Have in Common & the Need for Drug Addiction Treatment
Anyone who has a loved one struggling with drug addiction well knows how the effects of drugs can change a person in fundamental ways. Addictive substances exert their effects within the brain, causing gradual changes in a person’s physical and psychological makeup over time. In effect, someone living with an addict sees how a loved one’s overall demeanor evolves into one that’s so very different from the person he or she once knew.
Like drug addiction, someone affected by mental illness, be it in the form of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder develops destructive ways of coping with and managing daily life events to the point where his or her life enters into a downward spiral of frustration and despair. Interesting enough, the similarities between drug and mental illness develop out of dysfunction within the brain’s chemical workings. Without needed drug addiction treatment, someone struggling with a drug problem may well develop a full-blown mental illness.
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How Addictive Substances Affect the Brain
According to Brigham Young University, addictive substances like drugs and alcohol act as psychoactive agents in the brain, interfering with chemical processes and redirecting the brain’s normal chemical pathways. While these effects pose little risk when ingested sporadically or over short timeframes, frequent or chronic substance abuse causes marked changes to take shape within the brain’s chemical system.
Most addictive substances force brain cells to secrete excess amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals. These interactions not only change the brain’s chemical pathway configuration over time, but also cause considerable damage to the affected cells. As the degree of damage increases, the brain becomes physically dependent on the drug’s effects to carry out its regulatory functions. Increasing damage also brings about increasing chemical imbalance within the brain.
Similarities between Mental Illness and Drug Addiction
Over time, the effects of addictive substances cause widespread dysfunction throughout the brain. Before long, the workings of addiction start to take shape as the cognitive and emotion-based centers become affected. These developments gradually warp a person’s psychological makeup altering his or her priorities, motivations and behaviors.
In the same respect, the symptoms that characterize psychological disorders like depression and anxiety develop out of imbalances within the brain’s chemical makeup, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While the origins of mental illness can vary, ongoing brain chemical imbalances lie at the root of psychological dysfunction.
Much like the addicts drug-using behaviors only works to reinforce existing chemical imbalances, the destructive behaviors a person with depression engages in, such as isolating from others and dwelling on negativity also works to strengthen existing chemical imbalances. These similarities account for why an estimated 40 percent of people affected by mental illness also struggle with drug abuse problems.
Drug Addiction Treatment Considerations
The similarities between mental illness and drug addiction make for the perfect storm when someone affected by addiction develops a psychological disorder and vice versa. As brain chemical imbalances lie at the heart of both conditions, someone affected by both has an even more difficult time overcoming addiction as these conditions easily feed into one another.
If you or someone you know struggles with a drug addiction problem and have concerns about its effects on your mental health, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-481-6320 to speak with one of our addictions specialists.