No one decides to get addicted to prescription pain pills. So how does prescription painkiller abuse progress to full-blown opioid addiction? Many individuals are prescribed these medications for pain management, but unfortunately can build up a tolerance and misuse the medications prescribed by self medicating. Can someone know if their brain is vulnerable to opioid addiction? Unfortunately, “there’s no blood test, no scan of the brain that can predict who will become addicted,” says Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Center of New York and an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University . While certain genes have been associated with the risk for drug addiction, “no one gene is responsible, and we’re a long way off from genetic testing to identify people at risk.” When you have both a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Dealing with substance abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction is never easy, and it’s even more difficult when you’re also struggling with mental health problems.
Addiction is common in people with mental health problems
According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
- Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
- 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
- Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs.
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness
It can be difficult to diagnose a substance abuse problem and a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. It takes time to tease out what might be a mental disorder and what might be a drug or alcohol problem.
Complicating the issue is denial. Denial is common in substance abuse. It’s hard to admit how dependent you are on alcohol or drugs or how much they affect your life. Denial frequently occurs in mental disorders as well. The symptoms of depression or anxiety can be frightening, so you may ignore them and hope they go away. Or you may be ashamed or afraid of being viewed as weak if you admit the problem.Just remember: substance abuse problems and mental health issues don’t get better when they’re ignored. In fact, they are likely to get much worse. You don’t have to feel this way. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards conquering your demons and enjoying life again. I personally am not against treating chronic pain or mental health illnesses with medication. I just want people to be aware that it is very easy to fall into the “self medicating trap”. Stay Strong!