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How Does SUD Impact Mental Health?

Mental health can be difficult to navigate, especially when multiple factors are in play. One factor that drastically affects a person’s mental health status is the presence of substance use disorder (SUD). How does SUD impact mental health? Significantly. If left untreated, it can trigger a downward spiral. Before we examine the effects SUD has on mental health, we first need to cover the basics:

Understanding SUD?

MedlinePlus explains, “Substance use disorder occurs when a person’s use of alcohol or another substance (drug) leads to health issues or problems at work, school, or home.”

There is no one cause of SUD, and its symptoms vary from person to person. However, many factors can impact the probability of someone developing SUD. These factors can include:

SUD can significantly impact every area of an individual’s life, particularly affecting their mental health.

The Importance of Mental Health

According to MedlinePlus, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

Our mental health status often creates a domino effect. If our mental state is healthy, it enables positive physical health, choices, and outlook on life. However, if our mental health is in distress for extended periods, this can yield a decline in physical health, poor judgment, and toxic thought patterns. If mental health distress is left untreated, it can make an individual more vulnerable to self-medicate using alcohol and other drugs.

How Does SUD Impact Mental Health?

It’s common for people with SUD to also be diagnosed with at least one mental disorder. When SUD co-occurs with a mental health disorder, it is referred to as a co-occurring disorder. 

The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) explains that common mental disorders that occur with SUD can include:

People with co-occurring disorders often turn to substances in an attempt to relieve their problematic mental health symptoms. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirms, “Some people with disorders like anxiety or depression may use drugs in an attempt to alleviate psychiatric symptoms. This may exacerbate their mental disorder in the long run, as well as increase the risk of developing addiction.”

How Does SUD Impact Mental Health and the Brain?

NIDA explains, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs.”

NIDA further explains that when substances are used, it changes the way the brain sends messages to the rest of the body. Some important brain areas that are affected by substance use include:

The good news is that, though SUD impacts mental health significantly, healing is possible.

How Does SUD Impact Mental Health: Finding Ways to Heal

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for SUD. Just as each person’s diagnosis is unique, the effectiveness of each treatment type can vary from person to person. Treatment for SUD needs to be administered by licensed clinicians who are trained to provide trauma-informed care and value whole-person health. It is also important to note that many factors can influence the effectiveness and duration of treatment, including the:

Trauma-Informed Care and Whole-Person Health

Trauma-informed care implores clinicians to consider the patient’s history and how their life experiences could be influencing their problematic behaviors. A book titled Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that trauma-informed care is extremely beneficial to the patient, especially since there is such a strong connection between trauma and substance use.

The book details, “Although many individuals may not identify the need to connect with their histories, trauma-informed services offer clients a chance to explore the impact of trauma, their strengths and creative adaptations in managing traumatic histories, their resilience, and the relationships among trauma, substance use, and psychological symptoms. Closely related to trauma-informed care is whole-person health. Whole-person health takes into account all factors – the mind, body, and spirit – when administering treatment for healing and recovery.

Trauma-informed care and whole-person health work in tandem together and are key factors in the healing process.

Sage Recovery’s Innovative Treatment Approaches

While the effectiveness of treatment can vary from person to person, there are evidence-based treatments that are commonly used to help people heal healthily from SUD. These treatments can include:

In addition to the above traditional treatments, Sage Recovery also specializes in innovative treatment approaches such as:

Healing from SUD can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be done alone. Here at Sage Recovery, we know how much courage it requires to take a step toward healing. That’s why our compassionate, empathetic staff are here to walk alongside you every step of the way. Every single staff member has been trained extensively in providing trauma-informed care so you can be sure that no matter where you are in the healing process, you’ll be met with dignity and care. We believe there are multiple pathways to healing, so we offer customized treatment plans to ensure that you heal as healthily as possible. Whenever you’re ready, reach out to us at (512) 306-1394. We’re here for you.