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5 Most Common Co-occurring Disorders With Addiction

It seems as if certain conditions always come hand in hand. For instance, people who are diagnosed with diabetes often also have heart disease. And people who have asthma usually also have allergies. Within the world of addiction, something very similar happens. It is incredibly common for people who abuse a substance to also have a mental health disorder, although it is generally not clear which one came first. Many different combinations of mental health disorders and addictions exist, so let’s take a look at the five most common Co-occurring Disorders.

1. Antisocial Personality Disorder and Alcoholism

People who abuse alcohol often have a number of specific mental health issues, including dementia, mania, drug addiction, and schizophrenia. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has reported that the closest link is with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD).

“As a group, people with ASPD have higher rates of alcohol dependence and more alcohol-related problems than people without ASPD.”

What the studies have shown is that people who abuse alcohol are up to 21 times more likely to also have ASPD when compared to non-alcoholic individuals. According to the NIAAA, both disorders often develop quite early in a person’s life. Furthermore, alcoholism can increase the seriousness of the antisocial behavior, possibly due to alcohol lowering inhibitions, making their symptoms more prominent. Additionally, people with ASPD who consume alcohol are also more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior, particularly when under the influence of alcohol.

2. Schizophrenia and Marijuana Addiction

People who have schizophrenia very commonly develop addictions, often as a type of self-medication to cope with their symptoms. As indicated in the American Journal of Psychiatry, half of all people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia also have a substance abuse problem.

“This patient presents with a ‘dual disorder’, most likely schizophrenia and co-occurring alcohol and cannabis use disorders. This is not an uncommon clinical scenario. The literature suggests that nearly 50% of patients with schizophrenia have a co-occurring substance use disorder, most frequently alcohol and/or cannabis (at a rate about three times as high as that of the general population).”

While alcohol abuse is therefore also common in schizophrenia, the most striking association is with marijuana abuse. It isn’t known why people with schizophrenia are more prone to abuse this kind of drug, even when the effects of marijuana are very close to those experienced during a schizophrenic episode. It is also very important to understand that there is no evidence to suggest marijuana abuse causes schizophrenia. Rather, it is possible that a schizophrenia diagnosis had not been made for that person, or that the substance makes the condition worse.

3. Anxiety Disorders and Cocaine Addiction

Those who have a cocaine addiction often use the drug because it makes them feel powerful and euphoric. However, if use becomes abuse, a lot of symptoms start to appear that would point to anxiety disorders. These include hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, suspiciousness, and violence. When people achieve long term sobriety, these symptoms generally fade away. However, it is possible for the damage to linger and for people to continue to have unusual behaviors and thoughts, even when they no longer use the substance at all.

4. PTSD and Opioid Addiction

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition that usually occurs after people have gone through a very stressful situation, in which they either watched someone die, or faced death themselves. Survivors of these episodes often have significant physical injuries, as it is particularly common in wounded veterans. To alleviate the pain from these injuries, they are often prescribed very strong, prescription painkillers. Painkillers can make people feel calmer, as well as give them pleasurable feelings. As a result, it is quite common for people with PTSD to start to abuse prescription drugs. Unfortunately, this only makes the psychological injuries worse overtime.

5. Mental Illness and Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a drug that gives people feelings of happiness and euphoria in the short term. When long term use takes place, however, the areas of the brain that produce these feelings of pleasure can be completely burned out. It is possible for brain damage to occur that can lead to depression. This means that people are no longer able to feel any type of happiness, unless they use heroin. This partnership between addiction and mental illness is incredibly common, and it is also one scenario in which it is quite clear that the addiction causes the mental illness. Although brain damage can occur, treatment and sobriety can reverse it, once again enabling people to experience true happiness.