© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Addiction lives side-by-side with mental illness

Reza Mehrad

Although addiction is commonly recognized as a mental illness, it is less commonly understood how addictive behaviors and substance-use disorders live side-by-side with other types of mental illness. In fact, up to 70% of people living with bi-polar disorder use tobacco, as do up to 85% of those who live with schizophrenia. Compare this to a general rate of tobacco usage in Wichita of only about 12%, and you quickly see the correlation. In addition, major depressive disorder and numerous types of anxiety disorders are far more common in those who use alcohol at unhealthy rates, though the jury is still out on the extent to which the alcohol is a cause of the illness, or a result of it.

Substance use disorders in those who are already living with another mental illness may arise from the short-term effects of the substance without regard for the long-term effects. People living with anxiety disorders sometimes begin smoking because they report that it calms their nerves, despite the fact that nicotine prompts the central nervous system to release epinephrine – a stimulant – within seconds of the first inhalation. Those with depression may begin using alcohol because they feel like it lightens their mood in the short-term even though alcohol itself is a depressant.

If you find yourself spending more and more time or energy on pursuing chemical or behavioral fixes to cope with your daily life, you may be headed for an addiction. The sooner these issues are caught, the greater the chance of successful intervention. Not to mention that altering the addiction may also make treatment of the underlying mental illness easier. Consider talking to a professional to get a true understanding of your concern while there is still time.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.