Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Comorbidity - drug abuse and mental illness. Guest post by Susan White

There’s a reason why the human brain is deemed the nerve centre of life, because without it functioning as well as it should, it’s better we are dead than alive. This point was brought home to me stronger than ever before a few weeks ago when an old woman who lived in the same condo complex as I was found unconscious in the toilet of her home. She had apparently been in there for more than three days and emergency personnel had to break down her door and evacuate her to a hospital where she is still in a coma.
The poor woman, in her late 50s to early 60s, was mentally ill. I’ve seen her now and then – she would manage to take care of herself, but she seemed to be all alone. It was only after her tragic accident that I came to know a few more facts about her life – she was a well-known doctor who apparently began to abuse drugs after her only son broke off all ties with her. She lost the ability to think clearly because of the drugs and depression, and with each feeding off the other in a vicious cycle, she lost her mind completely.
Mental illness has long been linked to drug abuse, and combined with loneliness, it forms a potent combination that could bring even the strongest of people down. Comorbidity, or the existence of two or more medical conditions or disorders occurring simultaneously in the same person, is never more obvious as in the combination of drug abuse and mental illness. The drug abuse leads to mental illness or vice versa, or a set of genetic and other factors bring on both mental illness and a tendency to abuse drugs.
The most significant factors that affect comorbid drug abuse and mental disorders are:
· Personal trauma: People who suffer unexpected and sudden trauma are often unable to cope with the stress and resort to using drugs as a way to relieve their depression. Their addiction and loneliness leads to further depression and an increased dependence on the drugs.
· Adolescence: When teens and pre-teens experiment with drugs, it affects their brains more significantly than when adults do it. This is because the brain is still undergoing developmental changes and when it is affected by drugs at this stage, it could lead to mental illness later on in life.
· Genetic factors: Some people are more predisposed to mental illness if their immediate family members have suffered it and if they are substance abusers, or vice versa.
The presence of both mental illness and substance abuse symptoms in a patient can cause confusion when they’re to be treated. Unless they’re in the hands of competent medical personnel who know how to identify the symptoms of each and treat them accordingly, the reactions to illegal drugs could be taken as symptoms of mental illness and vice versa.

This article is contributed by Susan White, who regularly writes on the subject of Radiology Technician Schools in Texas. She invites your questions, comments at her email address: susan.white33@gmail.com.

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