Dealing with mental health disorders during drug detox
Mental, physical and co-occurring health problems go hand in hand with substance abuse and dependence as well as throughout the process of detoxification and rehabilitation. Mental health and physical health problems commonly precede substance abuse and dependence. Many individuals begin to experiment with substances as a means of coping with their mental or physical discomforts, however, this causes as well as exacerbates problems and symptoms.
Drug and alcohol use can worsen psychological and physical symptoms, reinforcing the need to use more of these substances in order to function normally. The cessation of substance abuse and dependence can be equally if not more dangerous than self-medication without professional medical support.
Mental disorders or mood disturbances such as mood swings, irritability, agitation, an elevated mood of mania and a depressed mood are common prior to substance use, throughout substance dependence and after the cessation of substance use.
In the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that approximately 43.6 million (18.1%) Americans ages 18 and up experienced any serious mental illness, and approximately 20.2 million adult Americans (8.4%) had a substance use disorder.
Of this population, roughly 7.9 million Americans reported having a co-occurring mental disorder and substance use disorder. Here are some statistics from the 2014 United States Behavioral Health Barometer:
- Approximately 58.8% of American youth aged 12 to 17 did not receive treatment for a major depressive episode.
- Approximately 31.5% of American youth did not receive mental health treatment or counseling for a serious mental illness.
- Approximately 89.8% of Americans aged 12 or older did not receive treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence and did not perceive a need for treatment.
- Approximately 2.5% of Americans aged 12 or older perceived a need for treatment for alcohol use or dependence but did not receive treatment.
- Approximately 79.9% of Americans aged 12 or older did not receive treatment for illicit drug abuse or dependence.
- Approximately 5.6% of Americans aged 12 or older perceived a need for treatment for illicit drug use or dependence but did not receive treatment.
Throughout the drug detox process, symptoms can intensify or become more apparent in the absence of drugs or alcohol, making the drug detox process that much more complicated and uncomfortable. Anxiety and depression symptoms often emerge because of real and perceived mental and physical discomfort as well as the lack of alternative coping skills.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, other specific phobias, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can range from minor to potentially life-threatening if left untreated and can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating or clamminess
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Choking sensations
- Muscle tension
- Stomach pain
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Short-term memory and concentration problems
- Fear, nervousness or dread due to
- Social encounters
- Situations relating to being seen, observed or judged
- Speaking in front of unfamiliar people
- New, open or public spaces
- Fear of panic attacks
- Fear of specific objects, people or situations, real or imagined
- The use of substances such as alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, or behaviors such as overeating, to manage anxiety symptoms
Panic attacks symptoms can include:
- Racing/ irregular heart rate
- Chest pains/ tightening
- Difficulty breathing
- Choking sensation
- Feeling physically weak, unsteady and dizzy
- Sweats/ high body temperature
- Feeling a loss of physical and mental control
- Fear of specific objects, people, feelings or situations, real or imagined
- Fear of death
- Nausea, diarrhea or other digestive problems
- Numbness or tingling in hands and fingers
Major depressive disorder is caused by a combination of genetic, physiological and environmental factors. Symptoms of major depressive disorder or depression include:
- Lack of motivation
- Change in appetite
- Binge eating
- Not eating
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Nonrestorative sleep
- Sexual problems
- Withdrawing from social, personal, professional, school or home responsibilities because of lack of interest
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness
- Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
- Self-harm, dangerous behaviors and activities
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
Detox from drugs and alcohol can cause one to experience many of the same physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety. Many individuals with co-occurring substance use disorder, anxiety and depression are resistant to or do not seek treatment for fear of judgment, not getting the help they want and need in addition to fear of experiencing uncomfortable physical or emotional symptoms.
Patients with severe substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health problems are recommended to undergo inpatient or intensive outpatient addiction treatment that begins with a medically-assisted detox to effectively manage severe and potentially serious withdrawal symptoms.
It is vital for individuals to understand the scope of their physical and mental health problems as well as develop effective self-soothing techniques to meet their specific needs. Simple breathing exercises, light physical activity, positive self-talk and meditation are mindfulness techniques that can be executed when and where underlying problems or symptoms become prevalent or overwhelming. Mindfulness involves being aware of and focusing one’s energy on the present moment and using feelings, thoughts and the five senses as a therapeutic technique.
Mental health care can provide patients with the opportunity to develop personalized coping skills in individual counseling, group therapy throughout rehabilitation and extended care. Instead of a lifestyle consumed and ruled by substance dependence, individuals will learn how to develop a health diet and lifestyle. Common therapeutic activities that can effectively manage symptoms in replacement of self-medication include crafts, music, cooking and exercise, all of which provide an opportunity for positive social interactions.
Physical activity is a vital component of detox, rehabilitation and an overall healthy life. Exercise helps prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, other diseases in addition to improving symptoms of mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. Exercise has even been shown to help prevent relapse after treatment for substance dependence, depression or anxiety. Exercise directly raises the levels of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and feel-good endorphins as well as releases muscle tension, improves the quality of sleep and reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Along with changes to lifestyle, adhering to your medically prescribed medication regimen is a vital factor of detoxification and rehabilitation for those with co-occurring issues. Before beginning any regimen, it is recommended to first discuss with your health care providers the risks in addition to the benefits of any and all medications and even alternative or holistic supplements and practices to fully understand how the medications, supplements or activities work, how they help, how medications might react to each other, as well as possible negative side effects.
To learn more about what to expect during drug or alcohol detox, contact our detox specialists today at 877-262-6566.