This is a must read! Excellent article written for our coalition by Robert Hunt, a recovering addict and active advocate for those suffering from substance abuse and mental illness.
Teen Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse: Understanding the Basics
Dealing with a combination of substance abuse and mental health issues is difficult at any age. Especially for teenagers. Unfortunately, there are those who are unsure of how to go about providing support when a teen is suffering from any type of emotional illness and is also battling dependence on medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol. Here is some information that explains the impact that this type of dual diagnosis has on teenagers, the social stigma that comes with this combination, and what can be done to help the patient recover.
Which Comes First?
There is no one way for a teen to get to a place where substance abuse and a mental illness are part of daily living. One scenario involves the development of depression or some kind of anxiety disorder as the result of an illness or some catastrophic series of events. When people are telling the teen to shake it off or ignoring the warning signs altogether, the individual may turn to self-medicating.
At first, choosing to engage in recreational use of legal or illegal substances may seem to lift the depression or allow the individual to function without experiencing the mind racing and panic attacks that come with anxiety. Unfortunately, the benefits are short-lived. As the addiction develops, it takes larger and more frequent amounts to achieve any type of good feeling. In time, even that sense of feeling better is replaced by a constant craving.
For others, the depression or anxiety is the result of becoming addicted to alcohol or some type of drug. The usage starts out as something fun to do and a way to be a part of the group. As the craving increases and it becomes harder to function without having a hit or finding someone to supply a bottle, the teen begins to experience the seemingly contradictory sensation of feeling nothing at all and feeling too much at the same time. After a while, even getting a fix won’t restore a sense of feeling normal.
The Isolation and Stigma
As the problems mount, people find it easy to turn away. Peers who are not involved with any type of substance abuse or have never experienced the crippling effects of emotional illnesses find it hard to relate. With no idea of what to do, they choose to look the other way. That includes making a decision to not invite the teen to social events, call to check on the individual, or include them in their lives in any way.
Others don’t just turn away. They begin to ridicule the teen. Being classed as weak, no good, and worthless make it all the easier to sink deeper into depression and drug use. Unless someone intervenes the potential for the teen’s life to end in tragedy is very real.
Treating a Dual Condition
Seeking professional help is the only way to overcome a dual diagnosis. By taking into account the general health of the teen, it’s possible to come up with the right approach to come up with a combination of treatments. This may include counseling to aid in dealing with the depression while employing detox treatments that help to incrementally decrease dependency on the drugs of choice. While the process may take months, committed professionals monitor the teen throughout the process and adjust the scope of treatment when and as the need arises.
Seeking help is the key to overcoming a combination of substance abuse and emotional illness. With professionals there to determine the severity of the conditions and identify the methods that will help the patient, it is possible to feel good again and be able to control the addiction successfully.
By: Robert Hunt- a recovering addict of 7 years. He has devoted his life to helping others suffering from chemical addictions as well as mental health challenges. Robert maintains many blogs on drug addiction, eating disorders and depression. He is a sober coach and wellness advocate and a prominent figure in the recovery community.