How Withdrawal Symptoms are Affected by Mental Health Disorders

Mental health issues can have a negative impact on a person’s mind and life. Substance abuse disorders are strongly correlated with mental illness. Abuse of these substances may increase the risk of mental health problems like depression, and many people are often afraid to seek treatment for their mental health problems because they keep their drug addiction hidden. The term comorbidity refers to a single person having multiple disorders or illnesses. These co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose because a patient may display a wide variety of symptoms. Substance abuse fundamentally alter the way a person thinks, feels and acts.

Facts and Statistics

Drug withdrawal symptoms differ based on the choice of abused substance. Alcohol abuse may lead to a person experiencing seizures. Cocaine withdrawal may result in feelings of depression. Drug withdrawal generally results in feelings of anxiety. Patients may suffer from both physical and psychological ailments. They may develop an emotional attachment to the substance.

Drug abuse and mental illness may feed into each other. A person who is depressed may start abusing alcohol and other drugs. Substance abuse may subsequently exacerbate depressive symptoms. Substances like alcohol may make the depression symptoms last longer.

  • Use of drugs can eventually lead to the development of mental illness
  • Approximately 50% of people with serious mental health issues also have problems with substance abuse
  • Doctors and psychologists currently have effective behavioral treatments and prescription medication to assist with these problems

Withdrawal Effects on the Mind

Staging interventions for those with co-occurring addiction and withdrawal disorders can be a challenge because illnesses like depression may make a person withdraw from discussion. The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies addiction as a mental illness. This is because substance abuse can fundamentally alter the way the brain is wired. The American Psychiatric Association defines nine separate substance abuse disorders. These include:

  1. Substance-induced delirium
  2. Substance-induced persisting dementia
  3. Substance-induced psychotic disorder
  4. Substance-induced mood disorder

These particular disorders develop as a result of the use of the substance. This is distinct from comorbid conditions that occur simultaneously. A patient may develop a substance-induced disorder along with preexisting disorders. For instance, a patient that is experiencing psychosis may develop an additional substance-induced psychotic disorder when the drug withdrawal symptoms kick in. Excessive use of any narcotic substance can enhance symptoms of psychosis in patients. Some patients may eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia. This happens if the psychotic state lasts more than six months.

Drug-induced psychosis is one of the most common results of prolonged substance withdrawal. The patient may start seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there. The patient typically experiences a loss of contact with reality. The patient may begin holding irrational beliefs about his surroundings. This is often a particular concern among patients experiencing withdrawal because dependency on drugs may make attempts at treatment ineffective.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Mental Health Disorders

Consumption of alcohol is associated with feelings of euphoria and reduced impulse control. Chronic drinking is associated with increased instances of anxiety and dysphoria. People that consume high amounts of alcohol significantly increase their risk of developing new mental illnesses. Alcohol abuse occurs more frequently among people that suffer from mental illness. Many psychiatric clinicians make use of an algorithm to distinguish between withdrawal disorders and independent disorders. Patients in a state of withdrawal may experience hallucinations or have seizures. Symptoms of psychosis may be enhanced among both chronic alcoholics and intermittent drinkers.

Alcohol is a depressant, but many chronic drinkers abuse it for the feelings of euphoria the drug provides. Feelings of depression may be enhanced after the patient stops drinking. The physiological ailments may also drive the patient to continue drinking across the short term. Withdrawal effects of alcohol generally lessen over time.

Effects Over Time

The majority of withdrawal symptoms related to mental health disorders diminish as time passes. A patient that does not relapse will be less likely to have his mental health disorder worsen. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Amphetamine withdrawals can actually make the effects of schizophrenia worse. Alcohol can directly damage brain tissue. This may cause the effects of dementia to worsen long after the patient has stopped abusing the substance.

Chronic users of cocaine and amphetamines may experience temporary states of delusion paranoia. These psychotic states may continue for months or years. Patients with co-occurring disorders related to mood may develop a schizoaffective disorder. Withdrawal symptoms are less damaging for cocaine users. Cocaine abusers experiencing paranoia may still have concrete logic and reasoning skills.

Stimulant abusers typically experience a crash a short time after a week of substance abuse. The patient may immediately experience depression during the weeks following the crash. These crashes do not typically meet the DSM-IV criteria for a major depressive disorder. Continued abuse of the stimulant may alleviate the depression, but this can worsen the effects of the crash when the patient inevitably stops abusing the drug.

Some patients may receive a dual diagnosis. These patients may receive separate treatments for withdrawal symptoms and mental illness. Patients given a dual diagnosis will typically receive two separate treatment plans. Additional mental illnesses may be hard to diagnose because substance abuse is masking the visibility of the mental health disorder.

The doctor may need to carefully observe the patient across prolonged periods of time to determine whether a mental illness exists independent of the substance abuse disorder. A psychiatrist may also inevitably determine that the newly identified condition is part of the patient’s substance addiction problem. More severe mental health symptoms may appear if a patient abuses multiple substances at the same time. Withdrawal symptoms may be more intense if the patient is dealing with both alcohol and amphetamine withdrawal.

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