Addiction is a difficult subject to approach. This is not only because of numerous stigmas around mental health and substance abuse but also because it can be remarkably difficult to identify symptoms and seek help too. A number of circumstances can lead to an experience or relationship with drugs. Some experiment with substances out of curiosity, perhaps also out of peer pressure, while others find themselves seeking a respite from stress or depression.
While many drugs remain criminalised, other substances can be just as harmful while remaining accessible and even commonly used, such as alcohol and tobacco. Such substances can be appealing during times of need, whether a particularly stressful day or after a period of bad news, only for their temporary relief to develop into long-term and harmful relationships, with both physical and psychological consequences.
The relationship between substance addiction and mental health is well-forged and perpetuated both ways. Firstly, mental health disorders lead many to seek help or self-medication with drugs. This is remarkably dangerous in a number of ways, with a huge risk being placed upon those who are already being medicated, especially in cases of depression and anxiety, as substance abuse can impair or negate the effects of such medications. As a result, symptoms become worse leading the individual to develop a greater dependency on drugs.
Secondly, the usage of substances can lead to a number of mental health disorders. Addiction, for example, can lead people to feel isolated or guilty, prompting even severe illnesses such as paranoia. Substance abuse and addictions can also interfere with personal and professional life and relationships, leading to a number of challenges that increase stress, anxiety, and unhappiness.
There are options for support and, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic, more attention is being given to both mental health issues and addiction. Longstanding mental health and addiction organisations, from national charities to those that offer professional and accredited addiction counselling in Bristol and elsewhere.
If you begin to recognise symptoms of addiction or mental health disorder, either in yourself or those around you, it is most important that such professional and medical advice is sought, most often by speaking to a GP.
Some individuals will feel uncomfortable talking to their loved ones about potential signs of addiction but there is a general consensus among experienced mental health practitioners that it is better to potentially make a mistake than to not have the conversation at all. As such, if signs of a potential addiction are noticed, they should be approached without judgement or pressure, clearly demonstrating support.
If issues are caught early enough, and medical advice is sought, it can minimise the extent of an addiction or disorder, allowing for the containment of symptoms and a more efficient road to recovery. There are a number of concerns that might arise for those experiencing dual diagnosis, that of addiction and a mental health disorder, however, support services are assured to help, either themselves or to connect an individual with the appropriate organisation that can.