Either problem may come
first. If you have a mental health problem, you may use alcohol or drugs to try
to feel better. Or a substance abuse problem may lead to mental health symptoms
such as depression, anxiety, or rage.
People with mental health
problems may use drugs and alcohol:
To feel normal. You may use drugs or alcohol
because it helps you feel normal and accepted. It may make you feel like you
don't have a mental health problem or are not different from others.
To self-medicate. You may use drugs or alcohol to reduce anxiety,
depression, sleep problems, tension,
hallucinations (like hearing voices), and the side
effects of medicines.
Using drugs or alcohol when you have a
mental health problem harms your health and your relationships. You may have
more mental health symptoms, think about suicide, or need to stay in a hospital
or other facility.
Treating substance abuse and mental health problems
It's best to treat the mental health problem and the substance abuse
problem at the same time. If you don't get treatment, one problem can make the
other one worse. If you treat only one problem, treatment may not work as well.
When you treat both problems, you have a better chance of a full recovery and
less chance of returning to drugs or alcohol.
The first step
often is detoxification, or detox. During detox, you use no drugs or alcohol so
your body can clear itself of them. You may have
withdrawal symptoms, so detox usually takes place
while you are getting medical care. If your problems are severe, you may need
treatment at a hospital or another facility.
Detox is followed by
therapy and sometimes medicine. You most likely will attend individual and
group therapy for both problems. You also will learn about alcohol and drugs,
exercise, and healthy eating.
A recovery program such as
Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous often is part of treatment and
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