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Is Substance Abuse a Mental Health Issue?

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News Release

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classifies substance use disorders as a type of mental health disorder. Over time, a substance use disorder (SUD) can impact all levels of your mental, physical, social, and emotional health.  

What is Substance Abuse?

According to the DSM, a substance use disorder is when someone has a problematic pattern of use that impairs their daily life. They may also experience distress because of their alcohol or drug use. 

Unfortunately, mental health and substance abuse are only one aspect of the problem. Before long, substance use can lead to issues with the individual’s professional life, romantic relationships, friendships, academic success, and physical health. They may also run into legal issues or financial problems.

Even though the individual may want to quit using, they may be unable to do so without outside help. They may experience frequent urges and cravings to use. If they quit drinking alcohol or using drugs, they may experience moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms.

Difference Between Substance Abuse & Substance Use Disorder

For many years, drug and alcohol use was referred to as substance abuse. In 2015, the DSM’s fifth edition (DSM-5) released new terminology for substance abuse. Since then, this mental health condition has been classified as a substance use disorder.

This update happened to reflect the reality people go through. Abuse is a word people connect to physical abuse and sexual abuse. Substance use disorder is a mental health issue, not a form of abuse, so the older term is incorrect and potentially harmful for sufferers.

The Connection Between Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health

Mental health and substance use disorder are closely related. Someone who lives with SUD already has one mental health disorder. However, many people with SUD struggle with other mental health conditions.  

For instance, depression and anxiety are common co-occurring conditions for SUD. Someone may even develop SUD because they are using drugs and alcohol to cope with depression or anxiety. Likewise, SUD can cause, trigger, or worsen other mental health conditions.

A medical issue is called a co-occurring condition when it happens at the same time as another issue. These medical issues can be physical, mental, or emotional in nature.

When you decide to treat an addiction, it is important to treat co-occurring conditions at the same time. Otherwise, these disorders can trigger SUD after you finish going to rehab. For instance, feeling despondent or hopeless because of depression can trigger an urge to drink. 

Additionally, some substance use problems start because of physical disorders. Many opioid addictions begin because someone had a physical disorder or injury. Over time, they may have developed an addiction to legal painkillers.

Discover a Better Quality of Life

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use disorder, it can impact all aspects of your life. You may suffer from physical problems, legal issues, difficulties at work, relationship problems, or co-occurring mental health conditions. When you decide to become sober, it’s important to get help for all your mental health issues at the same time.

To take the first step in treating mental health and substance abuse, reach out to the Las Encinas Recovery Center today. Our team of mental health professionals is here for your support.