In many 12-Step programs, a primary text (often referred to as “the Big Book”) lays out a plan of action for recovery. This plan of action is titled “How it Works,” and it has a passage that specifically discusses those with mental health issues that also have substance use disorder (SUD). In referencing these self-medicating individuals, it states:
“There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity, to be honest.”
It is the last portion of the iconic passage that is so critical when it comes to an individual that is self-medicating as a “solution” to their struggles with mental health. Thankfully, this portion of the passage is a hopeful one. When someone is struggling with co-occurring mental health disorders and SUD, recovery is still possible. Recovery may be even more crucial than if only one issue were present.
If a loved one is struggling with both mental health and addiction, there are healthy solutions to treat both disorders simultaneously. There are also patterns and “red flags” to look out for if you feel a loved one is self-medicating.
The Dangers of Self-Medicating
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Approximately 10.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.” Perhaps even more alarming is that of those 10.2 million, “Nearly 60% of adults with a mental illness didn’t receive mental health services.”
These, quite frankly, are disturbing, and we believe unacceptable statistics. This is why we aim to not only inform families of these facts but also create plans to help their loved ones get on or back on the road to recovery.
The following are just a few of the dangers of self-medicating:
- Devastating health effects, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and lung disease
- Negative social effects, such as isolation from friends and family and the inability to enjoy activities they once loved
- Occupational problems, such as reprimands, suspension, and eventual terminations
- The loss of parental rights and divorce
- Overdose and death
These are just a few of the reasons that self-medicating is dangerous. However, these dangers become compounded when the individual is struggling with other issues of mental health.
The Dangers of Self-Medicating While Struggling With Mental Health
While it is dangerous to self-medicate, for someone struggling with untreated mental health disorders, it is easy to empathize. However, that empathy can not overshadow the dangers and the need for these individuals to get care.
When issues of mental health are treated via self-medication, the symptoms of the mental health disorder are often maximized. For example, if someone is treating their anxiety and depression with alcohol, it can be a disastrous combination. Alcohol, already categorized as a depressant, will only cause the individual to experience greater symptoms of loneliness and unease. This creates a cycle of worsened mental health symptoms and continued self-medication.
It is also critical to spot signs of self-medication because this behavior can mask other mental health disorders that need to be addressed. For example, suppose someone is struggling with a form of bipolar disorder, and they are self-medicating with stimulants. In that case, it can be difficult to determine if they are experiencing side effects from the substance or a bipolar manic episode.
Dealing With Co-Occurring Disorders in Recovery
The good news is that there are healthy solutions to care for a loved one that is struggling with co-occurring mental health disorders and SUD. The key is to make an individualized plan to treat both problems. At Clere Consulting, we create a start-to-finish plan for all of our clients. If a loved one is struggling with co-occurring disorders, then these are taken into account.
We have the tools, resources, and connections to get the well-rounded treatment that an individual with multiple struggles has. We can create a case plan that will include addiction treatment as well as specific treatments for their issues of mental health.
These treatments can range from the neuroscientific to the therapeutic to more holistic means such as meditation, yoga, and breathwork. No matter what treatment method or recovery route is required, you can rest assured that we have access to some of the best facilities that offer it.
Struggles with mental health, addiction, and self-medication are serious matters, and serious matters need serious solutions. More substances are not the right answer. Let Clere Consulting help you find the real right answer. The one that ultimately leads to recovery.
When someone is struggling with mental health issues, it can feel like they have nowhere to turn. Often the individual will turn to the worst possible solution out of desperation. This “solution” is self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. This self-medicating often only compounds the problem and can even lead to more serious problems such as addiction. Creating these co-occurring disorders can make it significantly more difficult to diagnose and properly treat the initial mental health issues. Clere Consulting can help connect families that are struggling with a loved one with co-occurring disorders such as addiction and mental health disorders. We have the tools, specialists, and resources to help. For more information, call (866) 384-8847 today.