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November 2022 NEWFOUNDLAKELIFE.COM Page 19 Healthy Living
 Addiction and Mental Illness: Both Must be Addressed
ContRiButeD By DeB naRo
Recovering from addiction is notoriously difficult. Setbacks are common. Too often, a criti- cal element is overlooked: co-oc- curring mental health conditions. Treating mental illnesses like de- pression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, and oth- ers with medications or other therapies is crucial to address the addiction and overdose crisis that now claims over 100,000 lives an- nually.
Substance use disorders often accompany other mental illnesses. Individuals who expe- rience a substance use disorder (SUD) during their lives may also experience another co-occurring
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Individuals aged 21-64 who are uninsured or have insurance that doesn’t pay for screening tests, or have a limited income, are invited to call the center to schedule an appointment. To confirm your el- igibility and schedule an appoint- ment for the free screening, please call Mid-State Health Center at 603-536-4000. Mid-State Health Center is part of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, led by NH Healthy Lives and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
mental disorder and vice versa. For many people, drug and alcohol problems begin as self-medication: using substances to cope with temporary stress or to manage symptoms of chronic mental health problems they may not even know they have. Sub- stance use, particularly alcohol,
can be a socially accepted way of dealing with negative emotions.
Surveys show alcohol use rose during the COVID-19 pan- demic, including increased use by stressed parents. Research has also tied problem alcohol use in college students to self- treat- ment of social anxiety. Similarly, people with untreated depres- sion might discover that opioids or stimulants temporarily boost their mood and use them for that purpose.
Fragmented and hard-to-ac- cess mental health care means that these conditions and addic- tion often go untreated. In some communities, it is easier to get illicit drugs than adequate med- ical mental health care, making co-occurring addiction and other mental illness more likely.
But using substances to treat mental illness can begin a difficult cycle. Substance use to manage mental illness can lead to addic- tion and can in turn worsen the original mental illness. Regularly taking drugs or alcohol causes the brain to adapt to that sub- stance—known as dependence.
Effectively, the brain dials down its own neurotransmitter
systems upon which the drugs act. A person trying to relieve anxiety through substance use will feel worse anxiety most of the time, because their brain now depends on the drug for relief.
Discrimination, isolation, childhood trauma, poverty and lack of access to education and healthcare can all play a role in increasing risk of developing mental illness and substance use disorders. The stigma that attaches to both substance use disorders and mental illness ex- acerbates these factors—making the person with mental illness and addiction even more isolated and vulnerable, and less likely to seek treatment.
The entanglement of mental illness and substance use disor- ders requires urgent action. Ef- forts to reverse the addiction and overdose crisis need to be mul- tifaceted, taking mental illness into account. We have powerful, proven treatment tools for addic- tion, especially for opioid use dis- order. Harm reduction strategies, when implemented, can prevent overdose deaths. However, ex- panded screening and care for mental illnesses including depres- sion, anxiety, PTSD, and others must be a component to success-
fully address the current addic- tion and overdose crises.
Prevention is possible if invest- ments are made. Opportunities to reduce risk can begin early in life, since substance use disorders and other mental illnesses share common risk and protective fac- tors. Interventions starting during the prenatal period and followed through adolescence and young adulthood can help avert a range of adverse outcomes later in life. Moreover, numerous studies of prevention’s return on investment show that communities could not only save lives but also money by investing in prevention programs.
Screening is equally im-
portant. Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that pri- mary care physicians screen all adult and adolescent patients for depression, given its low cost and potential for benefit. Screen- ing for mental health conditions needs to become part of standard practice along with screening for substance use and substance use disorders to personalize inter- ventions to treat patients’ unique needs and increase the likelihood of recovery.
If you, or someone you know, struggles with substance misuse or addiction, please call 2-1-1 or the Doorway at (603-934-8905) for help. You can also connect with Plymouth Area Recovery Connection (PARC), our local recovery center, located at Whole Village Family Resource Center in Plymouth at or 603-238-3555.
     Kids who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are SIGNIFCANTLY less likely to use drugs.
When parents create supportive and nurturing environments, children make better decisions.
  We Focus on Prevention – Please Join Us!
For more information on how to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol, visit: CADYINC.ORG
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