By Bruce Miller
Substance abuse disorders and mental health conditions frequently co-exist, as people turn to addictive substances to self-medicate, and those substances cause and aggravate existing mental health symptoms. Substance abuse and mental health disorders may also share the same underlying causes, including genetics and early trauma.
According to Public Health England (PHE) “… most users of drug and alcohol services also experience mental health problems.”
When mental illnesses and substance abuse co-exists, it’s often difficult to determine which came first. The answer is different for everyone. Substance abuse and mental health conditions can complicate and impede treatment for either, and a relapse in mental health can lead to a relapse in taking substances and vice versa. At ODAAT, HOPE worldwide UK’s addiction recovery service, we treat these dual diagnoses simultaneously through talking therapies and an optional 12-step programme.
Dan,* who came through our treatment programme a few years ago, said: “I was in such a dark space, worse than ever before and attempted suicide. I wanted to die, the shame, of using and abusing myself, letting down my two kids and my partner. My thinking told me how bad I was.
‘The treatment which I have received so far is immeasurable. Words cannot fully explain how this process has been unlike any other previously. I believe ODAAT has a formula like no other rehabilitation service. To the untrained ear that may sound a bit farfetched, however it’s been my experience.”
In addition to substances of choice, at ODAAT many of our residents need to take prescribed medication for various mental health conditions. We support people through psycho-education, building a secure, trusting relationship with them to help them understand the relevance of their prescribed medication in their recovery process, and helping with any additional mental health treatment.
As our residents’ recovery progresses, their dependence upon their medication generally decreases. The reasons for this are many, but an important factor is learning to understand the causes and manage the triggers that have previously caused destructive thoughts and behaviours. This is an ongoing process which will generally take years, but through the tools and techniques we provide at ODAAT, we help empower people to live in lifelong abstinence.
*name changed to protect confidentiality