The Government has announced a massive $1.9 billion package over five years across a range of portfolios including health, education, corrections, justice and housing. All aimed at trying to fix our appalling stats in this area.
Mental illness is common among people who struggle with substance abuse and addiction. 48.1% received treatment for either their mental health disorder or their addiction. This means that roughly half of the adults with co-occurring disorders did not receive either type of treatment. Only an estimated 6.9% of adults with mental illness and substance abuse disorder received the mental health and substance abuse care they needed that year.
Studies have found that among individuals with non-alcohol substance use disorders, 28% had co-occurring anxiety disorders, 26% had mood disorders, 18% had antisocial personality disorder, and 7% suffered from schizophrenia. Unfortunately, while the prevalence of co-occurring disorders among those seeking substance abuse treatment is high, the number of programs equipped to treat co-occurring conditions may not match the need for this kind of treatment. While many substance abuse treatment programs are able to additionally address some relatively mild forms of mood, anxiety, and personality disorders, there is evidence to suggest that these same programs may be reluctant or ill-equipped to manage individuals with severe mental illness. Correspondingly, the mental health system, while adept at treating cases of severe and chronic mental illness, may not be equipped to address the treatment of concurrent substance use disorders. This is extremely unfortunate, as an individual with co-occurring disorders is generally seen as “continuously at risk for relapse.” Comprehensive treatment and adequate after care may help to reduce some of this risk. One study found that, among patients with moderate-to-high severity dual diagnosis disorders, treatment outcomes were improved when their drug abuse treatment was supplemented with targeted mental health care.
Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness?
The answer to whether drug addiction qualifies as a mental illness is yes. Here’s why: addiction results in distinct brain changes and can disrupt a person’s “hierarchy of needs and desires,” leading them to prioritize drug use above all else. A person’s ability to control their compulsion to use substances becomes significantly diminished as these brain changes occur, which can promote continued drug or alcohol use despite knowledge of the harm it is causing. The compulsive behaviors associated with substance use disorders (addictions) bear similarities to other mental illnesses.
Substance abuse often occurs with other mental illnesses. Many people who regularly abuse drugs or alcohol are diagnosed with other mental health issues at some point. Studies show that people who are diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders are nearly twice as likely to have a substance use disorder compared to the general public.
The same goes for antisocial personality or conduct disorder. People diagnosed with these types of disorders are more likely to abuse substances. In addition, gender plays a factor in the prevalence of co-occurring disorders. For example, males are more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, while women are more likely to suffer from mood or anxiety disorders.
In some cases, it is difficult to know what came first—the substance abuse or the mental health disorder. It can also be difficult or impossible to determine causality; even if the symptoms of one condition appeared first, it may not have caused the other. What is known is that it is relatively common for people to self-medicate mental health symptoms with substances. Also, substance abuse may worsen or bring about symptoms of mental illness. For example, marijuana has been shown to increase the risk of psychosis for some users.
Research also suggests that adolescents who use drugs are more vulnerable to developing an addiction or mental health disorder. When a person is young, important parts of their brain, such as their prefrontal cortex, are still maturing. Exposing a still-developing brain to certain drugs can have harmful and long-lasting effects.3
The wellbeing budget has allocated huge amounts of taxpayer monies to try and fix this problem. Nothing is going to change until we remove the drug dealing scum from our midst.