State of Mind: The link between addiction and mental health

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- It's no secret that substance abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction are all big problems in our community.

"When it comes right down to it, we're all impacted by addiction," said Melissa Moore, a prevention specialist in Marathon County."How do we continue to build community support is a conversation we can't stop having."

Moore said in Marathon County, the number one drug impacting our community is alcohol.

"It is impacting us on many different levels, whether it's assaults or domestics, drunk driving and so on, but when we look at illicit drug trends, really I think Marathon County has seen a really significant shift from substances that are getting a lot of headlines, like opioids, into things like methamphetamines," Moore added.

But to understand the addiction side of it, you need to look a little deeper, as a mental illness disorder can co-occur.

"I think sometimes when we think of health, we think of the neck down, and we forget things like mental illness, and how the chronic disease of addiction can take over and drive people's lives," said Moore.

Both the mental health issue and the drug or alcohol addiction have their own unique symptoms that interfere with work, home life and how we relate to one another. But when they happen together, the disorders affect each other.

"When we look at the national data, what we see is about a quarter of those with a mental illness may go on to develop some sort of substance use disorder, whether it's to cope with the mental illness, whether it's due to the different medications or the disorder itself."

Moore said there's a similar affect on the flip side.

"About half of those with substance use disorders develop some sort of mental illness."

The most common mental health probelms that co-occur with substance abuse are depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders. But disorders like schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder are common too.

Moore says the only way to conquer both, is to get everyone involved, without bias or judgement.

"These are our family members, these are our friends, these are our loved ones, and we really need to look at this as a community issue," Moore explained. "We can't just keep pointing the finger and saying 'those people. These are our people."

The good news is that mood disorders and alcohol and drug abuse problems are treatable conditions. Experts say the best treatment for co-occurring disorders is an integrated approach, where both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously.