One of the pre-COVID crises was identified as a frightening drug abuse problem particularly with opioids. Drugs like oxycotin and fentanyl were used both legally and illegally in significant ways to the point that we were forecasting addictions and deaths to be increased significantly. The trending was so impactful that settlements were gained from pharmaceutical companies to compensate for the significant number of addictions and deaths that occurred.
That was a scary forecast, but then we experienced a pandemic. The deaths, grief, isolation, medical crisis, and now a mental health crisis have left us with a national crisis in mental health in our schools, families, and communities. Because of the massive impact of COVID the opioid crisis became secondary, but we know the use of opioids continued to grow during COVID. Therefore, we cannot conclude that the opioid crisis is of any less impact.
In a recent publication by SAMHSA entitled Mental Health and Substance Use Co-Occurring Disorders, these 3 statements were offered:
- Certain substances can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem.
- Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication.
- Mental health and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma.
Simply put, substance abuse and addiction can cause mental health problems. Mental health problems can lead to alcohol and drug use, and both of these conditions have impact to our brain functioning, genes, and trauma. In essence, we have a doubling effect with these two disorders that have compounded our treatment needs significantly.
It further states:
More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem. Substance use problems occur more frequently with certain mental health problems, including:
As far as treatment strategies are concerned, we must be aware that both issues must be treated simultaneously. We cannot treat drug abuse without considering the mental health issues and vice-versa. In a day where our treatment options on both of these issues are limited, and in some ways decreasing, the possibility exists that we will fall victim to these crises if we are not proactive with therapy, groups, medical treatment, and other related ways to deal with these issues that are permeating our society. We cannot continue to compartmentalize our treatment. We must be holistic in our approach to both of these significant and devastating issues or the problem will continue to exponentially grow.