There are specific dual diagnosis treatment centers that specialize in the treatment of co-occurring disorders. These facilities are equipped and staffed to deal with individuals who suffer from severe addiction and mental illness.

Is drug addiction a mental illness?

Yes. It’s important to note that drug addiction is classified as a mental illness because:

“addiction changes the brain in fundamental ways, disturbing a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substituting new priorities connected with procuring and using the drug. The resulting compulsive behaviors that override the ability to control impulses despite the consequences are similar to hallmarks of other mental illnesses.”

It’s also important to realize that drug addiction, like any other mental illness, requires proper treatment.

Developing Mental Illness Because of Addiction of Vice Versa

It’s the chicken or the egg question. Which comes first, addiction or mental illness? And if its just a cycle waiting for a trigger, then which should be addressed first, addiction or mental illness? Or, should addiction and mental illness be treated simultaneously?

The truth is that addition specialists and scientists cannot say that mental illness will always cause addiction or that addiction will always lead to mental illness [1].

The Link Between Addiction and Mental Illness

Dual diagnosis, also known as cooccurring disorders, is common. The extent to which an addiction strengthens a mental illness, or a mental illness strengthens an addiction varies.

In 2014, there were 7.9 million adults in the United States who suffered from co-occurring mental disorders [2].

So far, addiction science has determined:

  • Drug abuse can cause users to experience some other mental illness. An example would be temporary psychosis from marijuana use.
  • Pre-existing mental illness can lead to drug abuse as a form of self-medication.
  • Addiction and mental illness disorders are caused by some of the same factors. This makes it difficult to determine which came first.

Addictions Linked to Common Mental Disorders

Alcoholism & Anti-Social Personality Disorder

Alcohol is often called social lubricant, and most think of it as a social drug. However, people who suffer from ASPD often drink to excess to lower their inhibitions and display their anti-social behavior.

This social drug is used as a coping mechanism for those with anti-social personality disorders [4].

Marijuana & Schizophrenia

This link still baffles some addiction specialists because the symptoms of a marijuana induced psychosis are very similar to a schizophrenic episode. These symptoms are usually associated with terror, panic and overwhelming anxiety. Feelings most people would avoid if they had the choice.

Cocaine & Anxiety Disorder

Overuse of cocaine can lead to anxiety disorders and symptoms including paranoia, suspiciousness and insomnia.

Opioids & PTSD

People who have suffered physical trauma have lasting psychological effects. It could be a fall, a car accident, or war time injuries.

They are prescribed prescription painkillers to manage their pain and develop a dependence on the drug which eventually leads into an addiction.

Heroin & Depression

People who suffer with long term depression seek out the short term pleasurable effects of heroin. This dependence can be difficult to break but not impossible.



[1]: – Why do drug use disorders often co-occur with other mental illnesses?

[2]: – Behavioral Health Trends in the United States.

[3]: – 5 Most Common Disorders with Addictions.

[4]: NIAAA – Alcoholism and Co-occurring Disorders.

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