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Understanding the link between mental health and addiction

By October 2, 2023No Comments

October is a month of reflection and action—a time when the world comes together to prioritise mental health. 

As we embrace World Mental Health Month this October, it’s vital to delve into the intricate relationship between mental health and addiction. In this blog post, we’ll explore this connection, particularly focusing on young people aged 15-24, who bear a substantial health burden when it comes to mental health. By understanding this interplay and advocating for holistic treatment, we can offer vulnerable young people the best chance of help and recovery. 

The complex relationship between addiction and mental health

The link between addiction and mental health is far from simple, but evidence shows that the two are intimately intertwined. Pre-existing mental health conditions may predispose individuals to use drugs as a form of short-term relief or as a coping strategy. In other cases, drug use can trigger the first symptoms of mental illness. (2) 

In 2019, the number of people who reported having a mental health condition was higher among people aged 18 and over who reported the use of illicit drugs in the previous 12 months (26%) than those who had not used an illicit drug over this period (15.2%). (3) 

For some people, their initial desire to use drugs or gamble can be a coping mechanism in response to trauma, depression, anxiety, grief or stress. (2) These aspects of mental health need to be addressed to facilitate the recovery process.  

The impact on young people

Among young people aged 15-24, issues of addiction and mental health are two of the three factors contributing the most burden to their health. It’s crucial to address mental health issues when treating addiction so that young individuals can have the best chance of recovery and lead healthy, fulfilling lives. 

Holistic treatment is key

Evidence shows the risk of relapse for people living with addiction can be exacerbated by an insufficient linkage of specialist addiction treatment with mental health services. (2) Because addiction to substances and mental health are closely linked, people’s addiction treatment can benefit when they have access to mental health services. 

Treating addiction is complex, but it is clear that holistic treatment that takes mental health into account is part of the puzzle.  

Breaking the stigma

As we observe Mental Health Month in October, let us remember the profound connection between mental health and addiction. Addressing these issues together is not only essential but also the key to effective treatment and lasting recovery. During this month of heightened awareness, let’s break the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction, ensuring that those who need help receive the comprehensive care they deserve.