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Addiction and Mental Illness: Why the Two Go Hand-in-Hand in Ohio

Last Updated: February 16, 2023

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For the uninitiated, it can sometimes be difficult to discern the difference between mental illness and addiction. This is partially because the symptoms of depression, erratic behavior, and other external markers can appear quite similar.

The truth is that while addiction and mental illness are separate and distinct diseases, there is some overlap in the sense that they often present as a co-morbidity — i.e., the presence of two more disorders or illnesses occurring in the same person. Unfortunately, when it comes to these two ailments, one also often worsens the other.

This article provides a brief introduction to why mental illness often co-occurs with addiction disorders and where Ohio residents can turn to receive treatment for both.

Causes of Co-Morbidity and Dual Diagnosis 

For those living with mental illness, it is common to try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. In many cases, they may find that drinking or taking controlled substances temporarily alleviates their symptoms and provides a short-term feeling of stability and wellbeing.

However, as time goes on, a tolerance is built, and it takes more drinking or drug use to produce the same effect. At this point, addiction can spiral out of control, compounding the existing problem of psychosis, anxiety, or depression. Another emerging theory is that at times, chronic drug use can cause mental illness.

Current studies suggest that there may even be a correlation between heavy marijuana usage and schizophrenia-like symptoms. While more research is needed to verify this claim, it is recommended that those with a family history of schizophrenia avoid any and all marijuana use.

Nature vs. Nurture

It can be tempting to debate whether or not addiction and mental illness are due more to genetics or environment, but it is important to discern the fact that neither affliction is a weakness or character flaw. Both genetic and environmental factors can interplay to create a comorbid diagnosis of drug addiction and mental illness. Here are some of the reasons a patient may receive a co-occurring diagnosis:

  • A genetic predisposition to both mental illness and addiction
  • An overlap of environmental triggers such as abuse, trauma, sexual violence, or poverty
  • Stimulation of brain regions that respond to reward and stress, which may lead to self-medication with illicit substances or excessive drinking
  • Involvement of a developmental disorder, which often starts in childhood or adolescence. (Additionally, early exposure to drugs and alcohol can trigger a developmental disorder early in life, increasing the risk for prolonged mental illness later on.)

Treatment for Co-Occurring Addiction and Mental Illness

At The Recovery Village Columbus, we understand that treating Ohio residents for drug disorders and mental illness requires a comprehensive and caring approach. Anyone who is looking for Ohio drug rehab is advised to contact us so we can talk about treatment options such as behavioral therapy, medications, and other treatment options to support you in your unique situation. Do you or any of your loved ones struggle with addiction and mental illness? Contact us today to learn about admission and see how we can help you live a happier, healthier life.


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.