Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When one is addicted, use of a drug may continue despite the harm it causes.
Mental health problems and substance use disorders sometimes occur together. This is because:
- Certain illegal drugs can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem;
- Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication;
- Mental and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma.
More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem. Substance use problems occur more frequently with certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and other personality disorders.
Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and, for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins with exposure to prescribed medications, or receiving medications from a friend or relative who has been prescribed the medication.
Recognizing signs of drug use or intoxication
You may wish to visit the webpage of the Mayo Clinic that discusses Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder) for information on symptoms and causes, and diagnosis and treatment.
Recovering from metal health problems and substance use
Someone with a mental health condition and a substance use disorder must treat both issues. Treatment for both may include rehabilitation, medications, support groups, and talk therapy. The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides detailed information on What to Do if You Have a Problem with Drugs, including information on where to start to find help, finding an affordable treatment center, type of counseling to seek and other valuable information for successful rehabilitation.
Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a free, confidential 24/7 treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
The Recovery Village provides links to a vast array of 12-Step programs that have been formed to aid and support those in recovery from other addictive disorders.