Is addiction a mental health illness? There is no easy answer to this as the answer can vary depending on who you ask, and who you’re talking about.

There’s a great deal of debate over whether alcohol or drug addiction is an illness. Many people argue no as there is a degree of choice in an addict’s behaviour. Therefore, it can seem at odds with other health conditions which is generally viewed as no one’s fault and a natural occurrence.

Others argue that being drawn to substance abuse and a life of drug and alcohol misuse is a mental illness in itself or can lead onto to one in the form of the addiction.

The link between addiction and mental health

Whichever side of the argument you come down on, there is a clear link between mental health problems and a drug or alcohol problem – so much so that it’s hard to talk about addiction without mentioning mental health also.

Any kind of substance misuse can have very clear mental health implications, whether addiction causes them or is the result of them.

One important thing to consider is that a lot of addicts also have mental illnesses to begin with, which can often lead to a dual-diagnosis of the particular mental health problem and substance addiction. This fact is hard to ignore because surely the illness will have some clear link to the reason why they became addicted.

When discussing mental health in relation to addiction, there are two main things to consider:
– The cause of addiction – What led you down this path? Was it poor mental health?
– The effects of addiction on mental health – Does addiction lead to poor mental health?

In a lot of cases, the above points are not mutually exclusive and there is likely a combination of both factors to consider in each addict.

The cause of addiction

A common reason why people turn to harmful substances is to self-medicate and escape problems such as depression, stress, anxiety or trauma.

There might be plenty of other reasons alongside pre-existing mental health conditions, such as poor upbringing, drug use in friendship groups or family, job, money or relationship stress.

However, the common link that unites all of these problems is the effect they have on mental health, which then can influence drug or alcohol use. Substance abuse and mental health go hand in hand. As these problems inevitably become worse once addiction takes hold, this further fuels the substance abuse leading to an endless circle of issues.

The effects of addiction on mental health

Addiction can cause a range of health problems, both physical and mental.

For those addicts who already have underlying mental health problems, these issues can become harder to treat.

Not only will a therapist be required to help the person suffering from mental illness, they will also have to help them work on the addiction too.

Prolonged drug use or addiction more specifically can have both long and short term effects on a person’s mental health. These include paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggressive behaviour or even hallucinations. It could be that the very things the addict is trying to escape in their daily lives are magnified and exacerbated with substance abuse.

In more extreme cases, drug or alcohol abuse can lead to psychosis. This means a break from reality, where people become delusional, see or hear things that aren’t there. This can be a short term effect of substance abuse, but if someone is already suffering from mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, this can make the symptoms worse and much more dangerous.

Drug abuse and alcohol addiction can also make mental health conditions and the addiction itself much harder to treat because there are several more factors to consider, one of which is withdrawal symptoms, and the effects substance abuse has on the addict’s life. This causes issues such as depression and feelings of hopelessness to become more profound.

Addiction should be treated as a mental health condition

While addiction affects physical health too, the mental struggle is a huge factor which makes us believe that it should be treated as a mental health condition. The physical symptoms can and should be treated, but the most difficult part that will really make or break a person’s recovery is mental health treatment.

While the act of taking drugs may be initially a choice, when it turns into an addiction, it becomes less about choice and more about need.

When treating addiction, mental health is one of our primary focuses. We look at the underlying reasons why someone turned to addiction in the first place. We need to know exactly what led you down this path in the first place if we want to help you stay away from it in the future.

It is impossible to treat an addict without delving into their past circumstances, current lifestyle and mental health overall. Mental health is key because part of necessary tools an addict needs to develop is the belief in themselves. They need to believe that they can change their lives for the better.

Mental disorders such as depression and other conditions make this hard, but not impossible. That’s why mental health and behavioural therapy is so important when treating addiction.

How Step One Recovery can help you with addiction

If addiction has affected your life in any way, you know how damaging it can be to your mental health. It can all feel hopeless, but there is help at hand.

At Step One Recovery, we offer a mental health service alongside alcohol or drug addiction treatment. We work closely with you to help you rid addiction from your life and improve your mental health so you don’t feel the need to abuse substances again. It won’t be an easy journey, but with our specialist care and therapy, we can help you build your own resilience to addiction.

Our rehab centres will ensure that you feel right at home. We will work with you in one-to-one therapy sessions with addiction counsellors and trained health professionals. There is also therapy available within support groups so you have the chance to share your story and struggles with others who have been there themselves.

If you need help with drug and alcohol rehab, get in touch with Step One Recovery on 07914760631 and one of our team members will walk you through the next steps towards long term recovery and treatment.