Is it true that a lot of people with drug and alcohol problems also have mental health issues?
A surprising number of people, by the time they access treatment to get help with their drink or drug problems, discover they have mental health difficulties as well. You often hear this referred to as ‘dual diagnosis.’
What do you mean by ‘a surprising number?’
Well over half if you want to know, perhaps as many as three quarters. However, this is no reason to panic since for the majority of people the mental health problem tends to be anxiety, depression or both.
That sounds like a good reason to panic to me!
Think about it for a moment. Drinking alcohol heavily or taking a variety of drugs on a daily basis is not something the body and mind was designed to handle. Over a period of time heavy substance use has an impact on the mind, affecting the natural balance of serotonin for example.
What is serotonin?
It’s a natural chemical that the brain produces which makes you feel ‘good’, or at least normal.
So does this depression and anxiety go away?
By and large yes. If you get help you deal with your substance use your mind tends to re-balance itself. It’s not immediate to be honest, but over a few months you will begin to feel a lot better, like your old self.
What happens if it does not go away?
If you find that anxiety or depression are still causing you problems after you have dealt with your substance use, then your key worker will help you to seek the appropriate medical treatment.
So are all mental health problems caused by drug or alcohol use?
It’s a chicken and egg argument if you’ll pardon the expression. However it is fair to say that for a great many people, their mental health problems were either caused or exacerbated by their use of alcohol and drugs, and when that is dealt with they get better.
What about the rest?
Well there are some people whose underlying mental health difficulties, bi-polar disorder for example, lead to them using substances in order to control their mental health problems. This is often referred to as self-medication.
But that means I might be in a drop-in with mad people! Aren’t they dangerous?
There is an odd myth that people with mental health problems tend to be violent. In reality the opposite tends to be true, and they suffer far more from violence at the hands of other people than they ever cause.
How do I know I will be safe?
Ever service provider has a legal duty of care to look after everyone who accesses their services, and that includes you! It is why a risk assessment is a standard part of the assessment process, and they are very good at it. After all they have lots of experience.