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Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health Issues Are a Common Dual Diagnosis


By: Jim Scarpace, MS, LCPC
Executive Director
Gateway Aurora

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), 80 percent of clients with addiction issues have a co-occurring Axis 1 mental health issue. These can include depression, mood disorder, psychosis and attention deficit disorder, among others. In my experience the number of people with a dual diagnosis may be even higher.

Expert Insight
Jim Scarpace Explains Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health Issues

Alcohol abuse and many mental health issues go hand in hand because both are tied to similar centers of the brain. Depression and anxiety, for example, deplete certain of the brain's neurotransmitters. Alcohol temporarily energizes that system, decreasing those symptoms for a person.

The effects of using alcohol to self-medicate are fleeting, leaving a person feeling substantially worse than prior to using. Still, many use this "band aid" approach because it helps them obtain some manner of immediate relief –medications for mental health issues that are prescribed by a medical professional can take three to six weeks to work and finding the right medications can be hit or miss. When a person drinks to make themselves feel better, they create a cycle that repeats, so both the alcohol abuse and mental health issue worsen.

Caught in the spiral, it is almost impossible to stop the cycle without help and support. Support is required from all sides: Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers educates individuals and their family members on issues related to mental health and alcohol addiction.

Education includes the strong biological component to both addiction and mental health. We try to get individuals to understand these conditions are not who they are, but what they struggle with. Therapy involves showing people the relationship between mental health issues and alcohol abuse and how to acquire new skills to handle them.

Because of the close relationship between the co-occurring disorders of alcohol abuse and mental health issues, it is essential that both are treated in conjunction with each other. Time and space away from alcohol is essential to the success of treatment.

While fear of being branded "an addict" or "crazy" keeps many people from seeking help, change for a dual diagnosis is possible. Through medication-assisted therapy and counselling, Gateway has been able to help many individuals achieve success in treatment.

To learn more about treatment options for alcoholism, or our confidential consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

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