The Many Reasons Drug Abusers Experience Mental Illnesses


Often, those who abuse dangerous drugs eventually experience mental illnesses at some point in their lives. In fact, those with substance use disorders are twice as likely to have a serious mental illness at some point than those without them. This type of disorder, as defined by’s newest study, is like bipolar disorder, PTSD, or schizophrenia and negatively impacts one’s life to the point where they have difficulty just getting through each passing day.

Mental health and addictions are not as separate as many people believe. For example, 37 percent of those who abuse alcohol and 53 percent of those who abuse drugs will suffer from serious psychological illnesses in their lifetimes. This is because drug abuse can lead to psychiatric illnesses for some reasons.  

For one, drug use in many cases causes symptoms that are similar to those caused by mental illness. When a person abuses drugs like cocaine, meth, and amphetamine, they may experience symptoms similar to those associated with schizophrenia. These issues can subside after treatment, but sometimes, they resurface months or even years later. Prescription opioid and benzodiazepine drugs will cause depression and anxiety when a person suddenly stops using them, but if the drug was used in large enough quantities, these symptoms could turn into a full-blown disorder.

Also, the use of drugs and alcohol can change the way the brain works. Using these substances for a long time makes a person more susceptible to experiencing mental illness, whether it is the depression associated with long-term opioid abuse or the heightened anxiety experienced by those who continually abuse marijuana. Also, many people who use these drugs when they are young are even more likely to experience mental illness because their brains are underdeveloped and more likely to be reshaped by the use of drugs.

Due to the chemical nature of drug abuse and the issues, it can cause, a person who has not experienced full-blown mental illness can also be made more susceptible to this issue by drug abuse. What’s more, addiction and mental disorders are associated with most of the same risk factors: genetic, developmental, and environmental. This is just another reason why people often start abusing drugs out of boredom, stress, or a desire to fit, and a serious mental illness occurs alongside a difficult to control addiction.

Finally, many people simply do not realize that their substance use disorders are also co-occurring with mental illnesses. This happens because, as stated previously, symptoms of withdrawal and addiction can be similar to those of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. and because the proper screening is not always done for those being treated for either issue. However, screening is available for those with dual diagnosis, and when one does receive treatment, it must offer simultaneous care for both disorders to work properly. Remember, though, recovery is possible with help, so if you believe you or someone you know is struggling with this problem, it’s time to seek treatment now.