It is a classic movie trope we all have seen countless times of someone going through a difficult time within their life and then turning to substances in efforts to help them cope and achieve their daily tasks. However, it is important to remember that the relationship between mental health and substance abuse is much more complex than what a movie would lead you to believe. The two are not at all mutually exclusive. A mental illness does not always trigger the abuse of alcohol or drugs, but it would seem that there are inherent links between the usage of drugs and mental illness. Studies have indicated that those with any sort of mental illness are almost twice as likely to abuse drugs when compared to those who do not.
You may find yourself wondering if mental illness leads to drug abuse and the answer is both yes and no. Those who are undergoing an immense amount of psychological stress will turn to drugs and other substances in attempts to self-medicate to rid themselves of any unpleasant feelings they may be experiencing. There is no concrete proof at this time stating that mental illness without a doubt causes one to turn to drugs, but there have been a significant amount of studies showing that those with a mental illness do tend to use drugs and alcohol as a crutch. There is what's known as comorbidity. Simply put, comorbidity is when two separate diagnoses, or a dual diagnosis, are found to be present at the same time within an individual, such as a mental illness diagnosis and substance abuse.
You may believe that a few drinks a night doesn't affect your mental health, but that could not be any further from the truth. It is important to remember that having a glass of wine nightly is much different than throwing back a six-pack every day. Those who have a mental illness are more likely to find that they cannot limit themselves and are consuming far too much. You may feel as though the alcohol is taking the edge off, but it is chemically having a much bigger effect than you realize. The substances actually end up putting more stress and strain on the brain, which can be detrimental as they can increase depression and other mental illnesses.
If you or someone you love suffers from a mental illness and are having difficulty with substance abuse, you should consider reaching out to a licensed professional for help. They will be able to assist you and get you on track to recovery in little to no time. Addiction can be overcome with the proper help and desire to get better.