Substance abuse and mental health disorders often go hand-in-hand. It can be difficult to pinpoint whether drug use causes mental health concerns or if undiagnosed mental health problems open the door for substance abuse. In all actuality, experts say that it can occur both ways. Those living with mental health problems might use drugs to cope with symptoms, while other individuals under the influence of drugs discover that the capacity to disrupt the brain’s normal development from the drug use may lead to compromised mental health.
A Psychology Today article also points out that adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of substance abuse as their brains are still growing and developing. Ironically, ADHD in adolescence has been linked to higher rates of drug abuse. A decade-long study whose results were released in 2011, uncovered that individuals with ADHD had nearly a 50 percent higher risk of turning to substance abuse at some point in their lives when compared to others without an ADHD diagnosis.
Some parents questions whether it is the ADHD medications themselves that lead to a greater likelihood of later substance abuse. Because there were almost 3 million children and adolescents prescribed ADHD medications in 2007 alone, it’s understandable why parents might be concerned. Though, many studies on the subject can put that fear to rest as there has been no credible evidence linking stimulant use among kids with ADHD to higher instances of drug experimentation or later substance abuse.
In fact, research seems to support the exact opposite. One study made public in 2008, examined 114 children with ADHD for half a decade. And while 94 percent received stimulant treatment, the group was at nearly a 75 percent reduced risk of developing a problem with substance abuse despite their use of medication.
Experts say that it’s important to be aware of the co-existence of mental health and substance use disorders. Mental health professionals at the Family Guidance Center can help individuals sort through symptoms so that one or both conditions can be correctly diagnosed and treated. If you suspect that a loved one may be affected by either an issue of mental health or substance abuse, help is available through Family Guidance Center.