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Connecting the Dots: The Link Between Mental Health and Addiction

The connection between mental health disorders and addiction has long-since been documented by healthcare professionals, though as the opioid (among other substances) epidemic continues to swell, those professionals are taking a closer look at how the two may be related.

The University of Michigan performed a new research study, revealing that 51 percent of opioid medications in the US are prescribed to those with mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Performed in conjunction with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, the University of Michigan study focused on opioid prescriptions written year over year. Ultimately, research concluded that 60 million of the 115 million opioid prescriptions written annually are written to those with mental health concerns.

The study went on to reveal that nearly 19 percent of those with the most common mental health disorders have been received 1-2 opioid prescriptions over a year.

Research was led by Brian Sites, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School. He stated to reporters that opioids may improve depression symptoms “for a short while,” which leads to patients then asking for further prescriptions.

Mental Health and Addiction

With over 450 million people (according to the World Health Organization) struggling with some type of mental health concern worldwide, co-occurring disorders are becoming increasingly common amongst all populations.

When seeking treatment for addiction, it is important to find a center that will treat the individual as a whole. This means treating a person for their entire history, including history of mental illness combined with substance use.

Mental health issues can occur before or after substance abuse begins, though it is estimated by many experts, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that there is a high prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders in those who are addicted to drugs.

Contributing factors may include overlap of brain functions that are stimulated by depression/anxiety and also by abuse of certain substances.

As we all possess mental health that is relevant to our physical and emotional well-being, it is critical that we treat mental health concerns with the same urgency and compassion that we would a physical condition.

Addiction professionals refer to the treatment of substance abuse and mental health concerns as dual-diagnosis treatment.

The Risk of Addiction

While addiction does not discriminate against any specific group, the link between mental health concerns and addiction is apparent. Seeking treatment provides the best potential outcome for healing, and allowing the individual to set their own path to recovery (under careful guidance) will make all the difference.


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