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Dual Diagnosis

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Drug addiction does lead to the development of “mental disorders” for many substance users. Under these circumstances, this would be referred to as a dual diagnosis—the individual is diagnosed with a substance use disorder and diagnosed with mental health problems. However, the term dual diagnosis in Canada often refers to an intellectual disability and mental health problem. Moreover, it is also referred to as concurrent disorders or co-occurring substance use and mental health problems. Not to be confused with other clinical applications of the term, the information below focuses on the all-too-common dual diagnosis of addiction and “mental illness” or a co-occurring disorder.

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Depression and alcoholism, dual diagnosis

The Connection Between Substance Use and Mental Health

There is a significant connection between the two. Unfortunately, some healthcare providers and families often overlook drug addiction during the screening process. There is more focus on mental health issues, which further exacerbates the substance use with prescription medication.

The most common underlying issue behind many mental health problems is early drug use, recreational drug use, or early prescription drug use. Unfortunately, unresolved trauma, behavioral problems, and emotional issues prompt drug and alcohol use, leading to mental health problems.  

Environmental factors, for example, are associated with an increased risk of substance use. Chronic stress, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences lead to substance use and often a diagnosis of a “mental illness” without addressing the drug addiction.

An individual is then placed on prescription drugs to treat the disorder. Yet, they are still misusing illicit street drugs or alcohol. The problem worsens because of the licit and illicit drugs, potentially creating a psychotic episode.    

The Drugs that Lead to “Mental Illness”

Most drugs cause severe long-term adverse effects. Chronic abuse of specific drugs can lead to a combination of the following problems:

  1. Hallucinations
  2. Paranoia
  3. Anxiety
  4. Depression
  5. Aggressive tendencies
  6. Psychosis
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Unfortunately, for many individuals, taking drugs leads to prolonged mental health disorders that become progressively worse because of the substances they are using. Their addiction is often overlooked because it is believed they are suffering from a “mental illness”. The following drugs have the potential to create this problem:

  • LSD
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • PCP
  • Ketamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • Cannabis
  • Steroids
  • Alcohol
  • Inhalants
  • Kratom
  • Synthetic Cathinones

Drug-induced psychosis and delusions are real. When the drugs mentioned above are taken frequently for long durations, psychotic severe symptoms occur. A co-occurring mental health disorder is a common diagnosis.

Unfortunately, many individuals do not receive substance use treatment and are placed on prescription drugs. Our professional opinion is that the underlying issues of substance use should be immediately addressed with long-term residential rehab and significant aftercare support. Only then will an individual addicted to or abusing drugs know if there are lingering issues requiring treatment.

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