Mental Health and Substance Abuse

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Mental health and substance abuse are intimately linked, as often one can contribute to the other.

Substance use disorder is a treatable mental health condition that impacts a person’s brain and behavior, rendering them unable to regulate their consumption of alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe.

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Substance abuse and mental health disorders commonly co-occur. Many people with addictions experience concurrent mental health issues, while those with mental health disorders frequently abuse addictive substances. Co-occurring mental health conditions may include depression, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or bipolar disorder. Read on to learn more about mental health and substance abuse, and find out how to connect with compassionate and evidence-based dual diagnosis treatment.

Understanding Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Battling an addiction alongside a mental health condition like depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Managing an addiction to substances, alcohol, or drugs becomes significantly more challenging when mental health challenges manifest at the same time.

In cases of co-occurring disorders, each condition – whether the mental health issue or the addiction – presents distinct symptoms that interfere with daily functioning, including performance at work or school, maintaining a stable household, navigating life’s challenges, and forming relationships with others. The complexity increases as these disorders interact with and inflame each other. Untreated mental health conditions can lead to a worsening of substance abuse, while escalating substance abuse can intensify mental health issues.

The prevalence of co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders is high:

  • About 50% of individuals with severe mental disorders also suffer from substance abuse.
  • 37% of individuals who abuse alcohol and 53% of those who abuse drugs also struggle with a serious mental illness.
  • Among those diagnosed with a mental illness, 29% engage in alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Ignoring substance abuse and mental health problems often leads to deterioration, not improvement.

Keep in mind, though, that there are effective strategies and treatments available to address these issues. With appropriate support, self-help, and professional treatment, overcoming a co-occurring disorder is achievable. Engaging with the right treatment plan can help you regain your sense of identity and kickstart sustained and meaningful recovery.

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Is Substance Abuse a Mental Health Disorder?

Substance abuse is considered a mental health disorder. This classification is grounded in the understanding that substance abuse significantly affects the brain’s function, impairing a person’s ability to moderate their use of addictive substances.

Substance use disorder is characterized by a blend of psychological, physical, and behavioral symptoms. These symptoms are disruptive to functioning, affecting a person’s ability to work, maintain healthy relationships, and manage other responsibilities. When addiction co-occurs with other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, this makes treatment more challenging. Treatment usually involves a combination of therapies, medications, support groups, and lifestyle changes, aimed at helping people regain control over their lives and improve their overall well-being.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Statistics

The pandemic and its aftereffects have caused a spike in both substance abuse and mental health issues, as evidenced by the following statistics from NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

  • In 2020, 18 million U.S. adults had a diagnosable drug addiction and 28 million had a diagnosable alcohol addiction. By 2022, 27 million over-18s were addicted to drugs and almost 30 million were addicted to alcohol.
  • Mental health data for 2022 show that 59 million U.S. adults reported experiencing a mental health issue in that year.
  • Females reported significantly more mental health episodes than males.
  • Younger adults aged 18 to 25 are disproportionately affected by mental health issues.
  • 15 million over-18s in the United States reported experiencing an SMI (serious mental illness) in 2022.
  • More than 21 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with co-occurring disorders in 2022, split roughly equally between males (10 million) and females (11 million).
  • 55 million over-18s engaged with mental health treatment in 2022.
  • Rates of treatment are lower for substance abuse. Just 6 million people engaged with drug addiction treatment and only 4 million were treated for alcohol addiction.

Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Research shows that treating addictions which co-occur with mental health conditions simultaneously delivers more favorable outcomes. Accurate diagnosis can be demanding due to the overlap in symptoms between disorders, calling for thorough assessment tools to minimize diagnostic errors and ensure that appropriate treatment plans are developed.

Customizing treatment to fit the unique needs of the individual, considering factors like age, the substance being misused, and the specific mental health conditions involved, is central to effective care. This tailored approach may combine behavioral therapies and medications. Engaging in open dialogue with healthcare providers can help in identifying the most suitable treatment strategies and allowing sufficient time for the treatment to take effect.

Several behavioral therapies have shown effectiveness in treating individuals with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. These therapies might be recommended on their own or in combination with medications:

  • CBT: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, teaching them coping strategies for difficult situations.
  • DBT: DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), incorporating mindfulness and acceptance, helps people focus on being present and fully aware of their emotional state. It equips people with skills to manage intense emotions, curtail self-destructive behaviors, and enhance interpersonal relationships.
  • ACT: ACT (assertive community treatment) provides comprehensive, community-based psychiatric care, prioritizing direct engagement and tailored treatment strategies.
  • Therapeutic communities: As a long-term residential treatment option, TCs aid in cultivating healthier values, attitudes, and behaviors through a structured community environment.
  • CM: CM (contingency management motivates positive behavior changes by offering incentives for healthy actions, such as maintaining sobriety or attending therapy sessions.

Adopting these therapeutic approaches can significantly help people with co-occurring disorders, facilitating recovery and improving overall quality of life.

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Get Treatment for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at California Detox

When addiction and mental health issues co-occur, integrated and coordinated treatment produces the most favorable outcomes. At California Detox, we specialize in the dual diagnosis treatment of mental health and drug addiction.

Most people withdrawing from drugs or alcohol benefit from medical supervision during the initial detox phase. Choose medical detox at our Laguna Beach rehab and access continuous care and medications to streamline withdrawal.

During ongoing inpatient treatment for Substance abuse and mental health issues at our luxury rehab, expect to engage with an individualized blend of treatments that include:

  • Talk therapy
  • Motivational therapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Holistic interventions
  • Aftercare planning

For effective mental health and substance abuse treatment, call California Detox at 949.694-8305.


Mental health and substance abuse are often interconnected, as individuals with mental health disorders may use substances to cope with their symptoms, while substance abuse can exacerbate or trigger mental health issues.
Yes, treating mental health issues is an essential part of substance abuse recovery, as addressing underlying mental health conditions can reduce the likelihood of relapse and improve overall well-being.


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