Parents Be Aware: How Teen Drug Use Can Morph into Mental Illness
The Harrowing Merry-Go-Round of Mental Illness and Addiction
Everyone has some degree of mental illness and addiction. Maybe you’re addicted to fairly benign things, like chocolate or coffee.
Maybe your mental illness manifests in OCD hand washing or hair braiding when you’re nervous. Neurons that trigger weird, repetitive behavior, despite your intellectual observation.
For others though, the situation is more dire.
Addiction is to Meth. Heroin. Abusive relationships.
Mental illness is voices in their head.
It’s easy to judge people on the extreme end of the spectrum. To feel smugly superior.
But then, one of these desperate cases turns out to be our parent, or our sibling, a friend, or worst of all, our child.
Where does that leave us? Shame and blame are old school.
Understanding of the addictive process that leads to mental illness, or mental illness that leads to addiction is the key to prevention and intervention.
Right now I work with women addicted to the emotional cycle-of-abuse in their love relationships. These toxic relationships can drive participants to madness, as I well know from my own past experiences.
As the mother of teen daughters I want to be informed on how to best protect my children from some of my own mistakes and others I want to help them avoid.
So understanding how addiction and mental illness are interwoven is important to me.
For this reason I’m happy to publish an illuminating piece about the Möbius strip that is mental illness and addiction from Adam Cook of AddictionHub.org. (This is NOT a sponsored post.)
His research reminds us that prevention and intervention are what we must embrace; not shame and blame. Adam writes:
Substance abuse and mental illness are very frequently found occurring simultaneously.
While it is more widely known that people with mental illnesses tend to struggle with addiction, fewer people know that the opposite is also true.
Abuse of substances can actually cause a mental illness to form, which in turn leads the person to continue to abuse the substance as a way of coping with the symptoms.
If you suspect someone is trapped in this vicious cycle of addiction and mental illness, it is best to be fully informed as to why these two problems occur together.
Arming yourself with a well-rounded knowledge of both sides is key to recognizing danger, confronting your loved one, and getting help for him.
Genetics Play a Significant Role
Just like someone with a family history of physical illness, a person with a family history of mental illness and addiction is more likely to develop these problems.
Unlike physical illness, however, a history of mental illness is typically viewed as being less dangerous. A person whose parent had breast cancer may be more proactive with self-exams and check-ups to ensure tumors are caught early.
Similarly, a person whose parent suffered from depression should not only be knowledgeable about the history, be constantly mindful of his or her own mental wellbeing.
Like mental illness, addiction and addictive personalities also are genetic.
Of course, someone without a family history of alcoholism can become an alcoholic, but they do have a lower risk of doing so.
When these predispositions overlap, a person becomes much more likely to struggle with addiction and mental illness.
Environment and Circumstances Increase the Risk of Mental Illness and Addiction
Though a person may be genetically inclined to experience mental illness and addiction, his surroundings, upbringing, and influences play an equal, if not greater, role in determining whether he develops a mental illness and addiction.
Poverty or negative influences such as a close friend or relative with a substance abuse problem can also lead someone to struggle with addiction.
Having a history of trauma is another external factor that can lead to addiction and mental illness.
Developmental Interruptions Can Also Cause Problems
Many people with a naturally-occurring mental illness will begin to show signs in adolescence. Without treatment, the negative effects of the illness can lead that person to abuse drugs later in life.
A person may learn early on to self-medicate in a negative way rather than to learn about and adopt positive coping mechanisms.
Similarly, if a person is exposed to drugs during adolescence, his risk of mental illness increases.
In order to prevent these issues from occurring, it is critical that mentally ill adolescents receive proper help and that youths at risk for addiction receive education about the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Though a person can develop both addictions and mental health issues independent of the listed factors, it is important to recognize if a loved one may be at risk.
If your family has a history of addiction and mental illness, be sure family members are aware and know how to seek preventative care.
If someone you know has experienced trauma or is underprivileged in any way, be sure to monitor his behaviors.
Escapism via drugs or alcohol is a common coping tactic for people who are unhappy with their life’s circumstances.
Last, if your children or other adolescent loved ones have increased risk factors, take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Teach them how to cope with illness and circumstances in a positive way and help them grow into healthy, well-rounded adults.
Knowledge is the first step in treating mental illness and overcoming addiction.
Adam Cook has a strong understanding of the devastation that can be caused by addiction. He recently lost a close friend to an addiction-related suicide.
In an effort to better educate himself and to help others, he created AddictionHub.org, a site that provides addiction and mental health resources. When he isn’t working or adding to his website, he’s prepping for his first triathlon.