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How many stressed out people are using drugs to cope with their emotions? Learn about how self-medicating with drugs or alcohol only makes things worse.
Anyone who has been through a highly stressful life event or trauma knows how hard it can be. It is easy to see why numbing the pain with drugs seems like a smart idea. The thinking is, why suffer if you can smoke some weed or pop some benzos and take the edge off?
The problem is that the substance of abuse can end up making the mental health issue even worse in the long run. Added to that is the risk of acquiring a substance use disorder—meaning that now you’d have co-occurring disorders.
For those who are struggling with co-occurring disorders, there is help available. A dual diagnosis rehab specializes in treating both the mental health and substance use disorders.
Using Drugs to Manage Anxiety or Depression
We all have to deal with stress in our everyday life. Chronic stress, such as what comes with a highly stressful career, may be a much more challenging problem to manage. Anxiety disorder is even harder to live with. Anxiety causes symptoms like fear, dread, worry, avoidance, and even symptoms that resemble a heart attack.
Using drugs to cope with anxiety is extremely common. The most prescribed psychotropic drug is Xanax, which is for treatment of anxiety. The problem is that drugs like Xanax are highly addictive. If the person becomes addicted to the benzos in an attempt to handle the anxiety symptoms, it only makes their problem worse.
Depression is another mental health disorder that can cause symptoms so disabling that a person turns to drugs or alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, only adding to the depression symptoms. Alcoholism and co-occurring depression can increase the risk of suicide.
When Using Drugs to Cope Turns into an Addiction
At first the substance may truly reduce the adverse effects of the anxiety or depression. With continued use, though, the person will begin to notice that the drugs no longer help.
This is due to increased tolerance to the drug’s effects. To achieve the desired effects, the person has to take higher and higher doses. This, sadly, may lead to addiction.
Addiction can upend the person’s life, as the drug only made the mental health problem that much worse. The adverse effects will vary based on the substance of abuse. However, some common signs of addiction include:
- Ever increasing dosing of the drug.
- Being obsessed about the next dose, about getting the drug, and having enough of the drug on hand.
- Doctor shopping or obtaining the drug through illicit channels.
- Losing interest in the things once enjoyed, choosing drug use instead.
- Secretive behaviors; lying about the substance abuse.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Impaired ability to complete basic tasks at work or home.
- Ignore personal hygiene.
- Mood swings.
- Keep using the drug even with mounting problems.
- Trying to quit the drug but can’t.
- Problems in relationships.
- Legal problems.
- Drug cravings.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
A dual diagnosis treatment program has a psychiatrist on staff, in addition to the addiction specialists. Treatment will entail a blend of evidence-based and holistic techniques that help restore wellness. These elements include:
- Intake. Treatment begins with a detailed psych evaluation. This includes an interview, a review of mental health and medical history, lab work, and various assessments. This leads to a diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Detox. The next step is to safely detox the body from the substance. The withdrawal symptoms emerge within 12 hours and will vary in severity. The detox team will manage the symptoms by providing various meds.
- Therapy. Psychotherapy provides guidance for making needed changes in how triggers affect thought patterns and behavioral responses. Together the therapist and client determine recovery goals and benchmarks to be met while in treatment.
- Group support. Peer support is an essential aspect of dual diagnosis treatment. Group therapy is led by a clinician who provides topics to discuss during the sessions. Group therapy can all be a rich source of support in recovery.
- Medication. Drugs that target the specific symptoms of the mental health disorder may be prescribed during treatment and beyond.
- Recovery support. The A.A. 12-Step program and SMART Recovery are often part of the rehab program. They feature a set of recovery steps or goals to achieve, and offer meetings out in the community.
- Relapse prevention planning. Making a plan for recovery helps to identify triggers. The person will note what actions to take to avoid relapse when these triggers emerge.
Create New Lifestyle Habits
In recovery it is important to infuse healthy lifestyle habits into the daily routine. There is a direct link between physical health and mental wellbeing. This is why a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you remain stable in recovery.
When we are active, the body produces more dopamine and serotonin. These brain chemicals help boost mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality. Try to do at least three 30-60 minute workouts per week.
To restore health in recovery, try to limit processed foods, sugary treats and sodas, and high fat foods. Include foods that provide essential fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and seeds. Also, include fresh veggies and fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein sources.
Stress is a common risk factor for relapse. To reduce that risk, those who are in recovery should seek out ways to reduce anxiety or stress.
These might include:
- Yoga classes.
- Deep breathing techniques.
- Massage therapy.
- Equine therapy.
If you have been using drugs to cope with adverse life events or chronic stress, you are at higher risk of acquiring a substance use disorder. Work with a therapist to learn healthy ways to manage stress. If you have become addicted to a substance, be sure to get help for both issues.
LifeSync Malibu Provides Comprehensive Treatment for Substance Use Disorder
LifeSync Malibu is a premier addiction treatment center that also treats dual diagnosis. If you have been using drugs or alcohol to cope with mental health symptoms, give us a call at (866) 491-4426.