Is Increased Mental Illness A Consequence Of Sobriety?

A common theme amongst people recovering from substance addiction is the development of increased mental health issues such as anxiety disorders resulting in a sense of hopelessness and despair. Coupled with this may be a perceived fear of the unknown. For instance, a long term addict recovering from a life of addiction is facing a new life filled with change, modification and variance, contrary to the life that was once known.

David Peters

It is therefore not surprising that these increased anxiety based emotions can often lead to relapse. Achieving any level of sobriety from drugs and alcohol often signifies merely the beginning of a person’s recovery journey and when consequent mental health concerns such as anxiety remain untreated, it is possible for these symptoms to escalate out of control, prompting a return to the life of addiction.

The early stages of sobriety are often associated with higher levels of anxiety, greater emotional distress, and increased stress causing craving. When one considers the impact of increased mental health concerns for a person attempting sobriety many issues may arise. Often, these issues can be the result of underlying and unacknowledged mental health concerns. There is subsequently a need to address the often long-term and complex needs of persons living with mental health issues and addiction whilst in recovery.

Current statistics show the relapse rate for drug addiction is 40 to 60 percent following rehabilitation treatment and almost 50 percent of individuals with mental disorders are also affected by substance abuse. Thirty-five per cent of people who use drugs also have a co-occurring mental illness, poorer mental health and poorer social functioning.

A clinical review conducted in the United Kingdom, reported that 28 percent of individuals with a substance abuse problem will also have an anxiety problem. These statistics show that there is a great need for supporting people with mental illness and drug addiction, especially during the early stages of their recovery.

The dark reality is that up to one-third of all people attempting recovery from substance abuse will experience ongoing anxiety-based issues, which can greatly hinder the recovery process. This significant figure presents a valid argument for more support to be made available for this cohort.

By Mr David Peters, Mental Health Carers NSW

Full paper submitted and peer reviewed via Addiction 2016 Conference, and can be found here.

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