How does mental health and substance abuse go together? Well, let’s look at that. Mental health affects over 48.3 million Americans a year. Mental health ailments more often than not go hand in hand with substance abuse, most individuals that turn to substance abuse do so not because of choice, but because of circumstances. Some circumstances include; depression, anxiety, loneliness, peer pressure/influence, PTSD, family structure, physical pain or sickness, and their environment.
Mental ailments and substance abuse are not just something we can choose to get over. It is a disease that affects the brain in numerous different ways. According to nih.gov, brain changes in people with mental disorders may enhance the rewarding effects of substances, making it more likely they will continue to use the substance. These effects may last a life time and once you are in recovery, you are in recovery for life. Just like a physical illness or injury, mental health and substance abuse leaves scars and side effects. We may not see those scars like we do physical scars, but they remain in the brain and recovery from that is long, hard road.
As a community we need to dedicate ourselves to become educated on how substance and mental ailments could make permanent changes to our brains. Several studies have compared brain images of healthy brains with individuals that suffer from schizophrenia can be found at
Images of brain function of substance abusers can be found at
These are just some examples of the changes to the human brain with effects from mental health ailments and substance abuse. Practicing mental wellness, which includes wellness from substance abuse takes support, commitment and strong will/discipline. Next time you encounter someone in recovery, congratulate them for the things they have overcome, put yourself in their shoes and try to understand that recovery… in any form is an amazing achievement.