What is the connection between mental health and addiction recovery?

What is the connection between mental health and addiction recovery?

– Ralph Macey

Normally, certain catalysts in your life may motivate you to go towards addiction. Those catalysts may include situations like marital issues, unemployment, financial hardship, health problems, and legal difficulties.

People who did not struggle with any kind of addictions, can’t imagine the pain and frustration that may push a person to use drugs or alcohol. People use substance as a solution to their problems. They drink alcohol to forget about their issues and use drugs to reduce stress and anxiety due to multiple problems.

Family issues, money problems, health, these may trigger mental health issues in people. So, people are getting more and more into addictions, because many of those people are also not handling their mental illness.

People with substance use disorders (SUDs) normally belong to a majority of people experiencing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. Mental health and addiction are related, so your mental health plays an important part in your addiction recovery.

The connection between mental health and addiction

Patients experiencing SUD and mental illness simultaneously are going through dual-diagnosis. Several reputed organizations, including the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have indicated a strong connection between mental health disorders and the use of addictive substances.

As per a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), in a 1991 survey of 8,098 respondents, there is a clear and definite relationship between mental health and the use of addictive commodities such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc. The report reveals that patients with severe mental health disorders are addicted to the substance by the following percentage:

AddictionPercentage (%)

The report by NBER also reveals that people who have been diagnosed once with a mental health disorder, have consumed the following percentage of addictive substances:

AddictionPercentage (%)

Some facts may also prove the connection:

● In 2012, 26.7% of people having mental health issues used drugs. Among the rest of the population, only 13.2% used drugs, without having any mental issues.

● There are nearly 8.9 million American citizens who experience both a mental health issue and a substance use disorder.

● 50% of people with serious mental conditions are also suffering from a substance addiction.

● 37% of alcohol consumers suffer from mental illness.

● 53% of people with drug addiction also have a mental illness.

● 47% of people with schizophrenia also had a substance use disorder.

● 61% of people with bipolar disorder also suffered from substance use disorder

● Data analysis by the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) of over 34,000 American adults revealed that people who consumed alcohol or other substances to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, or avoid other mental health symptoms, had a significant risk of developing SUD.

● People with lifetime PTSD have the chance of suffering from lifetime SUD between 21% to 43%, whereas normal people have an 8% to 25% chance. 75% of veterans with lifetime PTSD may experience lifetime SUD as well.

Undiagnosed mental illness and self-medication

Many individuals also suffer from mental health or behavioral disorders, even after being diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD). This method is named as a dual diagnosis. Individuals may receive an integrated treatment plan under dual diagnosis, which helps treat both disorders as interconnected mental health issues.

But, even after being diagnosed with a mental health disorder at an early stage, there is still a chance of having drugs or other addictions such as self-medication, due to below-given factors:

Side effects – Few medications for mental illness cause unpleasant side-effects. So to get relief, patients need to use other drugs.

Affordability – Many patients do not have the money to continue mental health treatment for the required amount of time. Due to this reason, the symptoms may increase without sufficient treatment and medications. So, patients tend to use drugs or other addictions as a replacement.

Misconceptions – Most of the time patients and their family members do not have the proper information about the mental health issue and its symptoms. So, practically they fail to opt for the proper and necessary treatment. This could help a patient lean towards substance abuse for relief.

What is self-medication?

Practically, the most common reason that is connected to mental illness and substance use is self-medication. Patients who are desperately trying to heal or reduce the symptoms of mental health issues may find it easier to use alcohol and drugs.

Symptoms of mental disorder trigger addiction or substance use

● Patients suffering from panic attacks may consume drugs like benzodiazepines (Xanax or Valium) to reduce the symptoms or stop the attacks.

● Patients with low energy and lack of motivation may consume cocaine or crystal meth to increase their mental energy.

● Patients having depression may use marijuana to numb the pain.

● Patients facing social anxiety may suffer from alcohol addiction as it may provide them comfort in social situations.

Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol may give patients a temporary solution to their serious mental health symptoms and instead, create a whole new bunch of issues for a lifetime.

Tips for Keeping Your Mental Health in Addiction Recovery

1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

To keep yourself mentally healthy during addiction recovery, people must consider living a healthy lifestyle and maintain healthy habits such as – a healthy and nutritious diet, regular cardiovascular exercises, and at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Research at Harvard has shown that insomnia triggers common psychiatric disorders. By implementing healthy lifestyle habits such as sleeping 7 to 8 hours a day, people can make improvements in their mental health.

Certain nutrient deficiencies such as thiamine (vitamin B1) can harm mood and energy levels. As a result, it may trigger different mental health issues. As per a study at Columbia University in 2015, junk food, especially a high-sugar diet and carbohydrates, may increase the risk of depression.

But, a well-balanced diet including protein, whole grains, fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy products, can help you to stay healthy and reduce the chances of depression.

People should also adapt to the habit of doing regular cardiovascular exercises. These may include running, swimming, aerobics, cycling, etc. These exercises not only help a person to stay active, reduce fats, and lower the toxic levels but also help to maintain a healthy mind.

2. Consult a professional regularly and take prescribed medication(s)

As per a little research on this subject, it has been revealed that substance use can coexist with other mental health issues. As per the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 30% of US citizens, aged between 18 to 25, suffered from substance use in 2013 and had a co-occurring disorder [COD], such as depression or anxiety.

So, it is a great move if people can safeguard their mental health and addiction recovery both, by consulting with a professional doctor. Regular check-ups and having prescribed medications is important for good mental health. People should visit their primary mental health care provider at least once a year, get evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist, and follow their instructions every time. It is one of the right ways to recover from addiction and mental health disorders as well.

3. Maintain a positive connection

As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are 3 more important elements of addiction recovery, apart from having good health. They are home, purpose, and community.

These 3 elements have one main purpose, maintaining healthy human connection. People need to maintain such connections:

● with oneself (developing a purpose for existing)

● at home, with family, friends, and relatives.

● with a community (neighbors, colleagues, recovery group, etc.)

Maintaining “good mental health” will include having positive relationships and positive connections with people. It will help a person to have a purpose in life and give a sense of security, love, and acceptance.


Addiction recovery is about something more than just getting over the habits of alcohol or drugs. People need a complete transformation of their mind, body, and spirit. If a person can’t progress through the stages of recovery with the support of his loved ones, then proper education and new skills from a drug rehab program will be necessary for him.

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