The relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is real. It is also a little complicated. We cannot unpack the entire relationship in one blog, but it’s a common question whether substance abuse causes mental illness or if a preexisting mental illness leads to substance abuse.

People in dual diagnosis treatment centers usually have a question burning in the back of their minds.

People who suffer from dual diagnosis worry that their substance abuse caused their mental illness. Their may be a sense of guilt involved in thinking that mental illness could have been avoided.

On the other hand, others may wonder if their mental illness lead to a substance abuse problem, and for those people, there is a sense of helplessness and frustration.

This is the chicken or egg problem of dual diagnosis.

Does Addiction Cause Mental Illness: The Scientific Answer

The science says that although there is a link between addiction and mental illness, one does not necessarily cause the other [1].

The link is undeniable, but the cause is just very, very difficult to determine.

Like anything psychological, mental illness exists on a spectrum. You can be predisposed to a mental disorder and never show severe symptoms for your entire life. Or, an event or even just age can trigger a sudden increase of symptoms.

Also, people who suffer from mental disorders may turn to drugs to self-medicate. It is actually quite common for addicts and non-addicts alike to use drugs or alcohol to cope with mental illness.

The truth is that it may just depend on your individual story.

The Answer That You Need to Hear

It is difficult to come to terms with mental illness and drug addiction, separately. Double trouble in recovery means double the struggle, double the challenge and double the strength.

Does addiction cause mental illness?

The answer is that for addicts, for you in this very moment, it doesn’t matter. Your feelings of guilt, or frustration are normal and should be worked on.

The solution is to get fixed. You are getting help and that is all that should matter right now.

Addiction and Mental Illness is Common

You are not alone. Though dual diagnosis treatment is still relatively new compared to addiction treatment sciences, there have been links between addiction and mental illness.

  • 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. [2]

Treatment for dual diagnosis is also becoming increasingly common. There is a way for all of us to get better.


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

[2]: Help – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues

Add Comment

Call us 1-877-977-4866