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Christian Counseling - Drug Addiction or Mental Illness?

Once again into the breach... Much has been written recently about a certain actor's struggles. In the discussion about him, many commentators are discussing whether he is drug addicted or mentally ill. The idea of it being one or the other represents a common misperception.

Drug treatment in the past was focused solely on the drug addiction. Rehabilitation and other forms of treatment dealt with the addiction problem as being the main problem for the individual. However, research has come to show that for people with drug issues, the drug addiction is often only part of the problem. It has been found that drug addiction often presents along with and often as a means of coping with another mental illness. This comorbidity was often left untreated. As a result, many who received drug treatment would fall back into a pattern of addiction once the treatment was completed. One reason for this is that the central issue may have been one of a comorbid mental illness (depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety, etc.). This does not mean that the mental health issue is the most emergent problem. Sometimes, the drug addiction is the most immediately serious. However, from this point of view, treating the drug addiction without treating the underlying disorder(s), often leads to a recurrent problem with drugs. The main reason for this would be that, as was stated above, the drug addiction has been used as a means of coping with the mental illness. If you take away the drug that has been used to help the person cope, the chances are they will return to the drug again as the core problem has not been addressed.

When the going gets tough, we all run home to mama. Mama can be our actual mother, or it can be food, or gambling, or cocaine. We need to treat the whole person, not just the addiction. The next time you hear the argument that a problem is either an addiction or another disorder, remember that it is likely both.

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