Why Mental Health Matters in Addiction Recovery

According to recent data issued by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction. Furthermore, more than 90% of people who have an addiction started to drink alcohol or use drugs before they were 18 years old. According to these findings, Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 are the most vulnerable group when it comes to using addictive drugs. 

But what exactly is an addiction?  The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction as a complex condition that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. Addiction has a powerful influence on the brain, and today is recognized as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Scientists believe that addiction hijacks the brain, similarly, like diabetes impair the pancreas. People with substance use disorders do irrational things to get high or drunk. But what is also concerning is the fact that a vast majority of them are also facing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. Approximately 8.9 million Americans have both mental health and a substance abuse issue. For this reason, it is crucial to recognize the existing link between mental health and addiction, especially when it comes to addiction recovery.

Addiction Recovery

Recovering from addiction is a lifelong process. It requires improving health and well-being while living independently. Recovery involves changing your perception on life, your behavior, and in some cases, your environment. The recovery process usually involves treatment options that depend on the type of addictive disorder, the duration, and severity of use and also its effects on the individual. Treatment for addiction usually is a way to manage addiction successfully. A few standard treatment options are available, and most people experiencing addiction receive a combination of approaches. Most common treatment options are detoxification, inpatient/residential programs, sober living/halfway houses, outpatient treatment, and 12-step programs and group support. 

Detoxification is conducted under medical supervision, allowing the body to process and remove the substance while ensuring safety. Inpatient/residential programs usually offer structured and supervised  24-hour care. The American Addiction Centers offer these programs lasting for 90 days. Sober living/halfway houses are a midpoint between a residential setting and returning home. They involve living in a less structured environment with other people in recovery. Outpatient treatment range from an hour per month to 30 hours per week. This treatment covers many levels of care – from an individual, group, and family therapy, to intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programs. And the 12-step programs and group support are an informal style of treatment. They are conducted with other people in recovery, leading the meetings. They tend to focus on ideas of companionship and mentoring to treat addiction. 

Why Mental Health Matters

Taking care of your mental health is an integral part of the recovery process. It is one of the essential factors in achieving long-term sobriety and living a happy and fulfilling life. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is considered to be a mental illness. And when a person is suffering from substance use disorders and a mental illness simultaneously, has a dual-diagnosis. In these situations, coping with substance abuse, drug addiction, or alcoholism is even more complicated when the person is also struggling with mental health problems. 

In some cases, a person often abuses alcohol or drugs to cope with difficult emotions, temporarily change their mood or to ease the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder. However, abusing substances causes side effects, and in the long run, often worsen the symptoms they initially helped to relieve. In other cases, alcohol and drug abuse can increase the risk for mental disorders, which are caused by a complex interplay of factors (such as genetics, the environment, and others). Lastly, alcohol and drug abuse can worsen the symptoms of a mental health problem. Substance abuse can sharply increase symptoms of mental illness or trigger new symptoms. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers become less effective at managing symptoms when they interact with alcohol or drugs.


Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health in Recovery

1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle 

To maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent relapses, a person has to start changing his/her core habits. That includes consuming a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and making sleep a priority with seven to eight hours of sleep each night. According to Harvard research, there is a strong connection between insomnia and common psychiatric disorders. Lifestyle modifications that secure more and better sleep quality, significantly improve mental health.

Nutrient-rich foods help boost and maintain energy levels. Research shows that deficiencies such as vitamin B1 or Omega-3s have been proven to affect mood and energy levels adversely. Also, getting too little iron can cause depression, fatigue, and inattention, research suggests. A balanced diet rich in lean sources of protein, fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, is useful both for mind and body.

Regular cardiovascular exercise, like running, have now been found to have a significant impact on mental health. Exercise is known to trigger the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins. These chemicals are the body’s natural feel-good hormones, which can make problems seem more manageable.  More so, the American Psychological Association has encouraged integrating exercise in therapeutic interventions.

2. Value Yourself and Make Positive And Meaningful Ties With Family, Friends, and Community 

To re-balance yourself, you have to treat yourself with kindness and respect. Make sure you avoid self-criticism and keep it easy. Make enough time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or try new things and broaden your horizons. Moreover, there are three other dimensions of recovery – home, purpose, and community. These three elements all share one aspect: a healthy human connection. You can create and maintain this connection with several types of people: family and close friends (home), oneself (and a greater sense of life meaning and purpose for existing) and with a community (neighbors, workplace, recovery group, etc.)

3. Ask for psychological support

Addiction is more than just physical substance dependence. Social and psychological factors also need to be addressed during the recovery process. Treatments that teach coping skills and instill values toward prosocial behavior have shown better success rates in ensuring an addict gets sober and stays sober. This is the exact reason why people fighting addiction need to engage themselves in psychological counseling and therapies. 

4. Visit Your Doctor Regularly

Coexisting medical conditions can be relapse triggers that complicate or disrupt recovery. Over 60% of adolescents in community-based substance use disorder treatment programs, also meet diagnostic criteria for another mental illness. This data clearly shows that substance abuse frequently coexists with other mental disorders. For individuals suffering from COD, one of the best ways to safeguard both mental health and recovery is to rigorously continue with a doctor-prescribed medication regimen and regularly visit their doctor.