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Addiction is a Mental Illness

According to the American Addiction Center, approximately 8.5 million Americans experienced a mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD) in 2017. The same year, “1 out of every 8 adults struggled with both alcohol and drug use disorders simultaneously.” 

National Drug and Alcohol Awareness Month (or “Recovery Month”)aims to create an understanding of, “mental and substance use disorders and celebrate those that recover.” This year it is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Addiction can affect anyone at any point of their lives. Whether it is unexpected stressors or a genetic susceptibility, some people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Unlike other mental illnesses, addiction can take hold at any age, even as early as 12 years old. Approximately four percent of adolescents and more than one million adults age 65 or older suffer from substance use disorder. 

An overdose is what can happen if too much of a drug is taken at once. The National Institute of Drug Abuse depicts a steady increase over time from 1999 to 2017 in drug overdoses. It is fatal and overdose victims can only be saved by an emergency injection of Narcan. However, Narcan can only reverse the effects of opioids and heroin. Different reversal medications are needed for other overdoses. In 2017, there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in America. Specifically in Ohio, overdoses increased almost 19 percent between 2016 and 2017.

There are many studies that link SUD with other mental health problems. Common mental illnesses that co-occur with SUD include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. It is estimated that one in four people who experience a serious mental illness also experience substance use disorder. 

This is why Recovery Month was created. It is meant to shine a light on mental illnesses that stem from SUD. While it not only spreads awareness, it highlights the achievements of people who successfully recovered from substance use disorder. NAMI also promotes an online confidential screening from “Partnership for Drug-Free Kids,” to help you decide if you should begin to seek treatment for your substance use disorder.

If you or someone you know is experiencing substance use disorder and would like help, please reach out to your doctor or call the American Addiction Centers at 888-970-0294. Getting through substance use disorder is hard to do, especially alone. Once your body creates a dependence on the drug, withdrawal symptoms can be especially difficult. However, the only person that can help you is yourself. Decide for yourself if it is time to get clean and have loved ones help you on your journey.

NAMI offers weekly support groups for people of all ages. They are free and confidential peer-to-peer support groups that are led by individuals and family members who have been affected by mental health conditions, experienced challenges, and are working on solutions.


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Brooke Crockett is a third year student at the Ohio State University with an anticipated graduation of May 2020. She is majoring in Strategic Communication and double-minoring in Professional Writing and Nonprofit Studies. She is the current marketing/PR intern for NAMI Greater Toledo.