Families, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health

Families are a special population affected by the conditions of mental health and drug abuse in one of its members.  The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that 43.6 million people had a past year mental illness in 2014, 21.5 million people were classified with substance dependence or abuse, and 7.9 million people were reported as having co-occurring disorders of substance abuse and mental health.  These numbers are expected to rise.

Recognizing the Signs

Mental health and substance abuse are not mutually exclusive of one another.  A person who uses drugs risks having certain brain functions and structures disrupted for a while beyond intoxication.

Intoxication signs typically affect movement, speech, cognition, judgment, eyes, breathing, heart rate, and behaviors.  The more exposures and adaptations that take place, the loss of normative balances can become a long-term or permanent factor in mental health destabilizations including the rebounding effects of worsening withdrawals and longer durations.

Misconceptions in thoughts, beliefs, values, self-acceptance, purpose in life, or control of one’s environment can be powerful psychological indicators of drug abuse or mental health disorders.  According to the SAMHSA, “people with a mental health issue are more likely to use alcohol or drugs than those not affected by a mental illness.”

Some signs are obvious and some are subtle including:

  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns, deteriorated appearance
  • Changes in associations or interests that align with negative behaviors
  • Isolation, withdrawal, loss of interest, or disconnect from social involvements
  • Neglecting obligations and responsibilities at work, home, school, or ethically
  • Sudden mood swings or changes in behaviors, depression, anxiety, dishonesty, hyperactivity, decreased motivations, and developmental impairments

If you or someone you love suffers from mental illness and a substance use disorder, call us toll-free at  800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) to get help.

Living with the Consequences

Drug Abuse

People with mental health issues are more likely to abuse drugs.

The CDC reports that in 2014, 47,055 deaths from overdoses occurred in the U.S. (more than any other year on record), more than half involved prescriptions opioids, and “findings indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic is worsening.”

Depression and suicidal attempts are trending as serious causes for alarm. In 2013, there were more than 41,000 suicides, the 2nd leading cause of death in the age groups of 15 – 24 and 25 – 34, and LGBT adolescents in grades 7-12 were twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide.

Whether living with the individual or in extended relationships, families feel the impact in their own ability to manage their daily lives as they are connected to a wide range of social problems resulting from the substance abuse.

Criminal activity, domestic violence, mistrust, fear, abandonment, and child abuse or neglect is at the top of the agenda in problematic issues that families may try to hide.  Some of the consequences can be multi-generational and the effects do not go away easily. Veterans, trauma survivors, and the homeless are at an all time high for the risks that come with drug abuse.

For all the caring families with a member abusing drugs, there is hope.

Family and Treatment Support

Treatment is effective and people can and do recover from mental health and substance use disorders.  Families can play a crucial role in initiating and supporting those efforts through active involvements. As more people become educated and lose the stigmatic views toward treatment that were so prevalent before, they become willing to explore their recovery possibilities.

One thing is clear, recovery, according to the SAMHSA, is “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

The connectedness of families can encourage loved ones to get help by promoting positive behavioral health and taking care of themselves by finding education and support.  They can then, monitor behaviors and offer recommended assistance and support as their loved one begins their own recovery journey.

Getting Help

The sufficient time in treatment for your loved one can be the most promising indicator of their recovery success.   Options are available in outpatient or inpatient settings and most offer free assessments as the first step to finding the appropriate level of care.

Treatment works best when the individual is involved in the treatment planning, but, sometimes, this is not feasible and a family should know that treatment can work even when it is not wanted.

Various amenities, access to agencies or other service providers should be explored and above all, find a place that is suitable to your loved ones needs.  Costs, durations, immediate access, and safety are highlighted concerns and by contacting various providers you will probably find resources you never knew existed.

Don’t give up.  Family therapies are highly advocated and some are specialized for specific audiences such as spouses, children, parents, and others. For help getting started with the treatment process, call  800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) .


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