Mental health issues and alcohol or drug dependency often co-exist together. It is not uncommon for people with mental illness to turn to drugs and alcohol, in the same way that people who become addicted to these substances suffer from mental health problems as a result of their addiction.
Abusing drugs can make the symptoms of mental illness much worse and more difficult to treat. The complex relationship between substance abuse and mental health means that community support workers must understand the impact each can have on the other. With the right education and training, support workers will be better equipped to handle the challenges of mental health and addiction, to create the best possible outcomes for their clients.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the links between drugs, alcohol and mental health, and explain how support workers can develop the skills and knowledge to effectively treat these complex disorders.
Substance abuse in childhood or adolescence
Although substance abuse and addiction can happen at any time during someone’s life, drug use typically starts in adolescence, which is also the period when the first signs of mental illness tend to appear. During adolescence, the brain is still developing and functions such as decision-making and impulse control have not yet fully matured. This leaves many vulnerable young people open to dependency on drugs or alcohol. Studies have shown that frequent marijuana use during adolescence can increase the risk of psychosis in adulthood, especially in those who carry a particular gene variant.
However, it is also true that having a mental disorder in childhood or adolescence can increase the risk of later drug dependency. An earlier diagnosis of youth mental illness may, therefore, help reduce the likelihood of a substance use disorder developing in the future.
Links with childhood and other trauma
Research shows that someone who has suffered trauma is at a much higher risk for drug abuse and substance use disorder. In addition, people who are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope and avoid dealing with the source of their trauma.
People who are at greater risk of developing PTSD (and subsequent drug or alcohol dependency) include children who have come from abusive homes, homeless persons, war veterans, police officers, search and rescue workers and emergency medical personnel. As a drug and alcohol support worker, it is helpful to understand and assess the emotional and psychological state of your client in order to effectively treat the addiction.
How can I help those with drug,alcohol and mental health issues?
As a support worker, the people you help will benefit most from your knowledge and expertise. When you’re able to understand the complex nature of mental illness and its links to substance abuse, you can draw on this knowledge to provide the best solutions for your clients.
Open Colleges offers a dual Certificate IV program for students interested in helping people who are dealing with drug, alcohol and mental health issues. This program is designed to help you complete your studies and find a job placement much sooner.
This dual certificate program combines the CHC43215 Certificate IV in Alcohol & Other Drugs and CHC43315 Certificate IV in Mental Health. Upon graduation, you’ll be equipped to deliver treatment and set your clients up for the best chance of recovery and future success.
By having a solid understanding of both mental health and addiction—and how each impacts the other—you’ll be better able to provide effective care and advocacy for the people you help. This course also includes a work placement component so you can learn on the job and prepare for a career in this rewarding field.
To learn more, visit our CHC43215 Certificate IV in Alcohol & Other Drugs and CHC43315 Certificate IV in Mental Health course page and fast track your career today.