By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

Many people who first show up in chemical dependency treatment show a lot of signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, paranoia, or even delusional thinking. In the past, it was assumed these symptoms were a product of withdrawals from alcohol and drugs. Although symptoms often do improve over the first couple of weeks, many symptoms persist and are suggestive of underlying mental health issues. Research shows that 50-75% of people with chemical dependency also have mental health issues.

Chicken or the Egg

Many people wonder if alcohol and drug use caused mental health issues or if mental health issues caused addiction. The reality is that it can be both. Some people have a substance-induced mental health issues. A common example is an alcoholic who has depression. Since alcohol is chemically classified as a depressant, it is very possible for alcohol to induce depression. In these cases, sobering up for 4-6 weeks often resolved the depression, and symptoms lift. Eliminate the source of the depression (the alcohol), and the problem of depression goes away. The more common scenario is having a pre-existing mental health issue, meaning the mental health issue was there before the addiction evolved. In these cases, chemical use often makes mental health problems worse. Sobering up often causes mental health issues to improve, but they typically do not go away.

Chemical Relief

Many people with mental health issues like depression and anxiety find themselves scrambling to find a way to feel better. Some people simply stumble into chemical use and find that it works great to relieve pain – temporarily. The next day the depression or anxiety returns, and people find themselves turning to chemicals again and again to cope. What started out as one problem (depression or anxiety) can easily turn into two problems (addiction). One study of 20K people found that 37% of those with alcoholism had co-occurring mental health issues, and 53% of drug addicts had co-occurring mental health issues. There is little surprise that these two so often go hand in hand.

Relapse Threat

Unresolved mental health issues pose a significant threat to many people’s recovery. Sobriety is hard enough, with relapse rates between 50-70%. There are a lot of variables that can contribute to relapse, but negative emotional states, like depression and anxiety, are topping the list of relapse triggers. Some people find sobriety quite difficult, and having persisting mental health issues can make recovery unbearable. For many, sobriety means you took away the band-aid that was suppressing their pain, and now they have to endure without anything. Studies have shown that depression predicts relapse and that relapses happen in a shorter period of time for those with depression.

If you are interested in meeting with one of our providers to talk about treating your underlying mental health issues and improving your chances for recovery, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an individual consultation with one of our psychiatric providers so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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