Alcohol abuse rarely happens on an island independent of outside factors. Substances such as alcohol are commonly used to avoid or completely discredit underlying issues in a person’s life.

Many substance abusers, such as those that drink excessively, use alcohol as a sort of escape plan from their day-to-day lives. While momentary escape is relatively simple to achieve through substance abuse, the user is left feeling broken and incomplete, which only further compounds the problem that led them to drink in the first place.

The cycle begins with feelings the user wants to escape which leads to drinking in order to forget them. But, like any substance, the effects wear off and the underpinnings of the addiction begin to rear the heads again with the added element of physically feeling sick. It is not uncommon for this to perpetuate feelings of low self-worth, shame, and depression which only helps to perpetuate the addiction and begin the cycle again.

What Are Alcoholics Trying to Escape?

In addition to the compounding effect of drinking to escape problems or emotions that seem out of the person’s control, many alcoholics may have underlying mental conditions, which is commonly referred to as dual-diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. These disorders are co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or others that leave the user with even greater feelings of mental instability that is compounded by the abuse of alcohol. The problem isn’t an uncommon one and means that treatment should be centered on dealing with all mental health issues and not just the immediate issues of substance abuse.

While 8.9-percent of persons in the United States have co-occurring disorders, such as depression and alcoholism, only around 7.4-percent of those individuals receive treatment for both conditions. 55.8-percent receive no help at all, and the remainder are treated for either the substance abuse, or the mental health disorder, without any real focus on how the disorders react and compound one another.

Additional research shows that 70-percent of all substance abusers suffer additional mental health disorders outside of their addiction. For users dealing with mental health disorders that leave them feeling vulnerable, afraid, or even capable of self-harm, alcohol seems a likely choice for self-medication, especially when help is often hard to receive from outside sources. With the relative failure around diagnosing and treating co-occurring disorders, addicts often feel helpless to change their state of well being. When it seems like treatment is not helping, self-medication seems like the most appropriate form of relief and a likely option is found in alcohol for its ability to temporarily suspend the issues facing that person’s reality. While perceived “relief” may be the cause of the self-treatment, many addicts lack the understanding of how it further compounds the presence of addiction, and negatively impacts their mental health issues over the longer term when left untreated.

So What Do You Do?

Dual diagnosis – until recently – wasn’t well understood among addiction recovery specialists or mental health professionals. Ground-breaking research in the 90s led to further studies of co-occurring conditions, and because of these findings, most mental health professionals and addiction support specialists have a firm understanding of the role mental health plays in addiction. While the challenges remain, recovery specialists are more equipped than ever to deal with dual diagnosis, and as such, professional help remains quite necessary in order to address both the substance abuse problem and the underlying mental health condition.

Burning Tree West understands how the effects of co-occurring disorders affect the young adults in our program. Our team of professionals takes the approach of rehabilitating the entire mind and body in order to better facilitate sober living for the rest of our resident’s lives.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or a co-occurring disorder, Burning Tree West helps young adults from all over the country to overcome these challenges. Contact us today to find out how we can help.