Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness?

Drug addiction is also referred to as substance abuse disorder. The substance doesn’t matter as much as the degree of abuse. Substance abuse disorder, or addiction, is defined as an uncontrollable use of a substance.

A telling sign of an addiction is continued abuse despite the consequences. These consequences could be emotional, financial, or physical. Clearly, there must be a mental connection between drug addiction and mental health.

Substance abuse can create a myriad of mental health issues. However, drug addiction is commonly but a symptom of deeper issues. While drug addiction can cause emotional and mental health problems, it is also a mental illness itself. Let’s look at why.

What is Addiction?

There are hundreds of things that can become addicting. We don’t commonly think of someone who cannot avoid candy bars as suffering from an addiction. However, when that behavior presents compromising consequences, we refer to it as addicted to chocolate.

You may experience cravings for a number of things. Gamblers cannot stay away from a betting opportunity because of the power of that addiction. Drug addiction has one key feature that is different from some addictions. There is a substance involved.

Drug addiction is characterized by an uncontrollable urge or craving to continue doing something, taking a drug you either know is illegal, or it is harming you physically or emotionally. This key aspect of drug addiction presents a strong case for mental illness.

The type of substance, plus the frequency and amount used, increase the chances of becoming addicted to the substance. Physical withdrawal is possible almost immediately, and emotional withdrawal occurs as well. Despite all these consequences and potential dangers, if you continue to abuse the substance, you have a problem.

What Makes Addiction a Mental Illness?

Early medical experience with various types of addiction felt as if it were proportional to a person’s willpower. Some thought that an addict or alcoholic continued to drink or use simply because they lacked the personal dedication to stop.

Clinical observation of thousands of alcoholics and drug addicts has proven that theory horribly wrong. Up until about 100 years ago, if you lost control of your addiction, you were admitted to a mental health facility. However, addiction was still misunderstood.

Many were deemed incurable. However, as programs began to surface, theories that put one sufferer working with another sufferer, people began to get well. Some in the medical field hailed these new ideas to miraculous.

What was most impressive about this sudden shift in thinking was that something once thought to be a conscious block was now deemed an illness. It would be a few years before alcoholism and drug addiction officially were labeled as a disease, but a precedent had been established.

Science began to change the perception of addiction, even if only gradually. Research studies involving drug and alcohol abuse began to show a change in brain behavior. The longer the substance abuse lasted, the more profound the changes.

Cravings increased, while a healthy sense of self-control decreased. The combined effects of both of these mental issues fueled the addiction. Soon, the medical field grew increasingly more accepting of the idea that addiction was in fact a mental illness.

There was another problem that took years to materialize. Researchers wondered why some people had a higher proclivity to becoming addicted than others. In recent years, this has helped expand the theories around addiction as a mental illness that can be a symptom of other mental illnesses.

What has materialized is a concept known as co-occurring disorders. You may have the disease of addiction, a mental illness in its own right, but you may also suffer from other mental health problems. Together, the addiction and the external problems feed off one another.

One of the most difficult challenges with addiction is the desire to seek help. Addiction is a disease that will try to convince you that you do not have a problem. This mistake in thinking could cost you your life. It’s part of the mental illness that fuels addiction.

At best, you will continue to spiral out of control until you reach a point of hopeless despair. It does not have to reach those depths. If you think you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, all you need to do is ask for help.

Help is there. Reach out today, because a new way to live is one phone call away. Millions have recovered from their addiction. You can as well. Just reach out for help to begin your own wonderful journey in recovery. Call us at 772-266-5320.

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