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Are drug addicts self-treating mental illness?

The use of drugs and alcohol is one of the most talked about issues in society. The topics are constantly in the news as debates rage over medical marijuana and legalizing other drugs. While drug addiction can be disruptive and destructive to every area of the addict's life, few realize that there may be a deeper underlying issue. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that illicit drugs costs may hit $11 billion, drug addiction is an issue that affects every member of society.

Groups at risk

One of the important parts of helping an addict stay sober is to discover the underlying causes and triggers that inspire the drug abuse. Addicts don't get this without help in a treatment facility. Without treatment, an addict will deal with the same triggers that kick them right back into the habit. Many who abuse drugs are still dealing with traumatic events that started their drug use in the first place.

  • Military vets - As veterans return from war, they may have a hard time dealing with the things they saw or were asked to do. This may manifest in the form of PTSD. Veterans often lack the resources to seek treatment for mental health and may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the trauma that they deal with.
  • Abuse victims - Many abuse victims turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. As the abuse occurs, the individual's self-esteem and self-worth are eliminated. In order to deal with the traumatic abuse along with the feelings of worthlessness, they may opt for the oblivion that comes with chronic drug use.
  • Uninsured - Millions of Americans are without health insurance and lack the resources to seek help for common ailments and pains. Some live in chronic pain and have a hard time completing daily tasks. These people may turn to drugs in order to cope with pain and illnesses that they can't afford to treat.
  • Emotional trauma - Drug addicts often have some emotional trauma in their past such as the loss of a parent or divorce in their younger years. If they are not given the right tools to deal with it when it happens, they may turn to drugs at a later age in order to suppress it.

Without adequate mental health treatment, many addicts may return right to drugs after they are free to do so. Part of curing the epidemic is addressing the issues of mental health rather than focusing on the drug use.

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