Addiction and Mental Illness
It might make sense why having both an addiction and a mental illness can co-occur. For instance, someone with symptoms of a psychiatric illness, such as hearing voices or experiencing delusions, might want to use substances as a way to drown out the voices. In fact, many people with psychiatric illness say that they end up drinking or using drugs as a way to manage their illness. On the other hand, using drugs might come first. Sometimes heavy use of drugs and/or alcohol can induce psychiatric symptoms. The use of psychedelics, for instance, have led to experiencing psychosis for some people. In this way, it’s been difficult for mental health professionals to determine in some of their clients whether it’s the mental illness or the addiction that came first.
However, if you have a dual diagnosis, you likely need to take medication to manage your symptoms. Of course, if you have a tendency for addiction, having a straight forward talk with your psychiatrist is important. Often, a psychiatrist is consulted when you enter drug treatment in order to tend to your mental illness and not only the addiction. In fact, drug treatment often includes the involvement of many professionals in order to ensure your physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well being.
Finding the Right Medication
If you are already on medication, then you know that finding the right medication requires an honest and in-depth conversation with your psychiatrist and often a period of trial and error. And, if you struggle with an addiction, then not all medications are going to be ideal. There might be a psychotropic medication that relieves your symptoms but brings with it many side effects. Or there might be a medication that has few side effects, but the medication you’re taking is addictive, which can lead to leaving your alcohol addiction behind only to develop another one. Finding the ideal medication is based on a number of different factors. Below you’ll find the categories of psychotropic medication, used for mental illnesses:
- Antidepressants are used to treat depression, from moderate to severe, as well as anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This classification of medication can also address the painful mood states that some with personality disorders experience.
- Antipsychotics are used to treat psychotic symptoms such as those experienced in individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, mania, and many brain disturbances that might be the result of trauma or infection.
- Psycho-stimulants are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a condition in which an individual suffers from a strong tendency to fall asleep whenever he or she is in relaxing situations.
- Anxiolytics (Anti-anxiety medication) treats anxiety disorders and in low doses situational stress. This type of medication treats anxiety by slowing down the central nervous system. Anti-anxiety medications are also very successful as a treatment method because they can work very quickly. For example, taking anti-anxiety medication while experiencing symptoms of panic can rapidly bring relief.
- Mood Stabilizers are used to help stabilize moods for those who are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, schizoaffective disorder, severe personality disorders, and for the instability produced by neurological conditions.
- Central Nervous System Depressants are sleeping pills and are also used for anesthesia
Things to Consider When Discussing Medication
If you’re in drug treatment and beginning a conversation with a new psychiatrist, then there are some factors to consider when discussing medications. To determine which drug might be the most ideal for you, you might keep in mind that an ideal drug should:
- Do a good job of reducing or eliminating symptoms.
- Be safe in that the side effects are not harming or dangerous.
- Not interact with other drugs, making them ineffective or produce additional side effects.
- Be convenient to use, such as a pill a day or with meals.
- Be inexpensive.
It’s important to be informed when it comes to your medication while you’re in drug treatment. Having the above information might facilitate a productive conversation with your psychiatrist and ensure your well being.