Let’s Talk About Mental Health
Stigma around mental illness due to misunderstanding or prejudice can delay or prevent people from seeking treatment so it’s imperative that we learn to ‘break down the barriers’.
Drug dependency and addiction suffers from it’s own particular shaming – often a sufferer is blamed for bringing the problem upon themselves, whilst being ignorant about how the disease is actually classified.
We are aiming to shine a light on how drug and alcohol addiction has been classified as a mental health disorder and how recovery is possible if it is diagnosed and treated correctly.
More importantly, we want to share the message that help is available and that you just need to reach out.
Is addiction a mental health disease?
We are often privy to the debate of “Is addiction a mental health disease – or is that idea a cop out?”
Addiction was first classified as a disease in 1956 by the American Medical Association and this professional medical consensus is further endorsed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (US).
However, sensationalism by the media has given the medical treatment of addiction a negative stigma. Addiction, then is seen as a problem of those who make a conscious decision to engage in it.
Phrases we hear over and over again, particularly from frustrated family members of clients with drug dependence issues are, “they chose to do this, they brought this problem upon themselves!” and, “why won’t they take responsibility for their drug habit?” leading to “how can this possibly be a disease?”
Whilst initial use may be a free choice, studies show that people who suffer from addiction have no control over the decisions they make thereafter.
Characteristic of all substance disorder abuse is the activation of the brain’s reward system being central to problems arising from drug use. For example, the weakening of the neural pathway circuits in the brain that are necessary for exerting self control, make it hard for an addict to resist the temptation of drug use.
Despite being classified as a medical condition sixty years ago, people are often surprised to learn about the disease aspect.
We are often met with a sense of confusion around the topic.
For example, family members may say, “how can it be a disease if they chose to keep going? I mean, I can have a drink and stop, why can’t they?”
Yet for the addict themselves, there is often awareness of becoming physically and psychologically dependent from the first exposure to the substance, for example,
Jane, currently undergoing treatment with us, recalls, “I knew that alcohol was a problem for me from the first moment I took a sip”.
The answer to the queries above is that there is little doubt that addiction is a disease.
It was classified as a mental health disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Conditions (DSM -V) in 2013.
The DSM provides further sub-classification of addiction into two parts.
Firstly, there are substance abuse disorders – the symptoms that occur as result of using a substance, despite experiencing unpleasant side effects.
Secondly, substance induced disorders refer to the mental disorders that occur with drug abuse. For example, psychosis as a result of using ice, withdrawal, schizoid behaviour etc.
How can you tell if you or a loved one have a substance abuse problem?
The practical questions to ask are:
- Can I/they cope without alcohol or drugs?
- Are you/they taking the substance for longer than they’re meant to and in escalating amounts?
- Are you/they wanting to cut down on using the substance but not being able to manage to?
- Are they/you secretive about their drug use? Do you/they live life around the sourcing of the problem substance, the use of such substance and the recovering afterward?
- Are you/they having trouble doing the normal things you/they should do at work/school or home because of this substance?”
- Are you/they manipulating your friends and family in order to access the problem substance? Or are you/they isolating yourself from loved ones to try and “sort things out”?”
- Are you/they having trouble holding down a job?”
- Is their/your life in chaos and you/they are continually making excuses about it?”
- Are you/they physically or mentally unwell but still using a drug/s anyway?”
If you/they answered “NO” to the first question and “YES” to the rest, you/they may have a substance abuse disorder.
Awareness of mental health is important as a latent mental condition can be precipitated by drug use, and vice versa.
For the best treatment outcomes, it is imperative to correctly assess and diagnose substance abuse problems and concurrently occurring mental illnesses. Our Dual Diagnosis program addresses both conditions within a holistic program framework.
We welcome family members and their loved ones to have a free, no obligation, initial consultation which aims at educating you about the cycle of addiction, and how you can support your loved one into recovery and better health.
Queensland’s only private rehab centre with ACHS accreditation
We are proud to be the only private drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre in Queensland to be independantly accredited.