Why Addiction Treatment Should Also Focus on the Underlying Mental Health Condition

By  //  October 24, 2023

For over a century, society has recognized the need for programs to help substance use addicts overcome their addiction.

This officially began with the creation of centers like the YMCA and YWCA, designed to give support and refuge to those in a season of struggle. 

But those original centers, however well-intentioned, didn’t have the research that we have today. Now, recovery treatments have expanded to include the role of mental health in addiction, as seen in action in places like the San Juan Capistrano partial hospitalization program.

Statistics show that more than half of those with mental disorders also have a substance use problem, whether drugs, alcohol, or both. However, many recovery centers only focus on the addiction, not the underlying cause of the mental health problem. 

As more experts share their research regarding the need for dual treatment, programs like partial hospitalization continue to grow. Why is it so crucial for mental health to be included in an addiction treatment program? We’ll explain more here.

The World is Becoming More Depressed

The invention of the internet has changed the world irrevocably in good and bad ways. Many studies attribute the rise of depression to increased online time. This factor is directly related to a decrease in real-life socialization, a reduction in the person’s social circle, and an increase in feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression, all of which increase one’s risk of turning to addictive substances to cope.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated a problem that had already been on the rise. Since the global shutdown, we’ve seen a spike in substance addiction likely attributed to the same isolating factors as the internet. Treatment for addiction must include addressing the root of what caused the person to turn to substance use in the first place, which is, more often than not, some kind of depression, sorrow, or emotional avoidance.

Some of the most prevalent addictions include alcohol, marijuana, and opioids. However, cocaine, club and synthetic drugs, and amphetamines are ongoing dangers.

Is it a Mental Concern, Or Is it the Drugs?

On the other hand, understanding a person’s mental state combined with their drug use can help the treating professional create a recovery plan. Many behaviors that look like mental disorders are actually a result of drug use. For instance, anxiety and irrational fears are common side effects of addictive substances.

Treating a person as though they have a mental disorder won’t fix the problem. In fact, adding medication to reduce their episodes and behaviors may become another addiction problem. Without looking at the dual mix of addiction and mental health, this factor could easily be overlooked.

Some treatments combine substance recovery and mental health disorders. This idea is a core component of well-known, successful recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which focuses on healing the person with an addiction from the outside in. Stopping addictive behavior is only one part of recovery, and the lifelong process of staying clean requires the patient to learn strategies to encourage positive mental well-being.

As we continue to learn more about the link between addictions and mental health, this form of treatment will evolve and become a natural part of the recovery process for all.