Substance abuse's role in mental illness

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The combination of mental illness and substance abuse is the most common cause of disability and poor health, a new study in The Lancet reports.

Among these substances, alcohol is the most used self-medication for those with mental health problems, especially depression.

In the study, researchers found that 40 percent of disabilities are related to or caused by depression. Drug dependence was most common after alcohol. The largest proportion of mental health and substance-use disorders were in people aged 10 through 29.

A Global Crisis

Globally, substance-abuse disorders accounted for about 175.3 non-fatal burdens of disease in 2010, while depression disorders accounted for even more, according to the research presented in The Lancet.

This research highlights how often substance abuse and mental disorders that lead to disability are related. Often, those who have mental illnesses will turn to alcohol or drugs to treat themselves. The reasons for this are many, but are likely related to the stigma society puts on mental illnesses and the limited access to mental health treatment people may have.

The fact is, services for both substance abuse and mental illness are often stretched too thin or even non-existent. In North America and Europe, where medical services are some of the best in the world, it can be difficult for patients with substance or mental issues to gain access to the services they require.

This creates a downward spiral for many, in which mental illness leads to substance abuse, or substances lead to mental illness, in what can become a vicious and even fatal cycle.

If you or someone you know has substance or mental illness issues and is not seeking help, find them the help they need and help them access it. You could save their life.

 
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