A great many of those who are admitted to a young adult rehab program present with more than one disorder or illness, a phenomenon known as comorbidity. Any given young adult may have both emotional and substance use issues simultaneously, or they may have developed one prior to the other. Indeed, the two coexisting illnesses or disorders can interact to the point of mutually worsening.
It is important for those considering a young adult rehab program to realize that drug addiction and mental illness may occur simultaneously, meaning that both mental and alcohol or drug issues need to be tended to by therapists. The brain is fundamentally changed by addiction, with a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires being disturbed and substituted with new priorities connected to the procurement and use of the drug.
The resultant compulsive behaviors of those who use substances result in their impulses becoming progressively more difficult to control, despite the all too real negative consequences. Such a pattern has been observed in other mental illnesses. Nor should one doubt the widespread prevalence of comorbid drug addiction and other mental illnesses.
It is all too common for drug addicted young adults to also be diagnosed with other mental disorders, to the extent that they are about twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders as the general population – the reverse also being applicable.
However, it would be inaccurate to presume that a drug use disorder and co-occurring mental illness are linked to the extent of one having caused the other, even if one appeared first. There have, however, been a few possible reasons for such common co-occurrence suggested by research. These include that symptoms of another mental illness may be brought about by drug use, a hypothesis supported by the heightened risk of psychosis for marijuana users.
Alternatively, mental disorders can be a precursor to drug abuse, perhaps as a result of ‘self-medication’. Anxious or depressed patients may try to temporarily alleviate their symptoms through reliance on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. There are other shared risk factors for such disorders, ranging from overlapping genetic vulnerabilities and overlapping environmental triggers to the involvement of similar brain regions.
The high comorbidity rates between drug use disorders and other mental illnesses only makes it all the more crucial for a comprehensive treatment approach to be taken that identifies and evaluates both. Such an approach is embraced today by any good young adult rehab program offering clinically dynamic, combined treatments and therapies.