Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Psychiatric Severity and Substance Abuse
Psychiatric severity refers to the degree of mental health of an individual. Many people who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as depression, manic depression, antisocial personality disorders or anxiety conditions have high psychiatric severity. The higher an individual’s psychiatric severity, the more severe their illness is and the more likely they are to require medical intervention for their condition.
Some individuals who suffer from a psychological condition also struggle with substance abuse issues. This can be because they self-medicate their condition with the use of alcohol or illicit drugs. Or they may abuse non-prescribed pharmaceutical medications. This is called dual-diagnosis or co-occuring conditions. The unfortunate thing about increasing psychiatric severity is that the use of alcohol or drugs simply makes things worse for the person. The ability to take control of a situation, seek help for the mental health concern or even to hold down jobs, secure relationships and housing is made worse when alcohol or drugs are involved. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is highly destructive to the mental health of a person who already has a moderate to severe psychiatric condition.
There is inadequate knowledge about the relationship between psychiatric severity and the process of recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol. What is known, however, is that there is a strong correlation between temptation to drink and psychiatric severity. The more psychiatric distress a person is experiencing, the more he or she is likely to be tempted to drink or abuse drugs. This is not to infer that all individuals who suffer from a psychiatric disorder have substance abuse issues. Of the individuals who have both a psychological condition and are undergoing treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, there may be a correlation to more significant drug or alcohol abuse.
The dual diagnosis of chronic mental illness and alcoholism or drug addiction is considered a serious challenge for the mental health system. To correctly be able to treat both issues, integrated treatment plans are required.
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