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It is common for individuals struggling with addiction to also have mental health issues. This is known as a co-occurring disorder. Research has proven that prolonged drug use, and even intermittent drug use, can alter the chemistry in the brain. Neurotransmitters, our brains' chemical messengers, such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are notably impacted.

  • Dopamine helps to regulate mood, plays a role in how we feel and seek out pleasure, and is associated with motivation and focus
  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with mood stability and emotional regulation
  • Norepinephrine is like adrenaline and helps to speed up the central nervous system in response to fight or flight stressors 
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) acts as a natural tranquilizer, helping to lower anxiety and stress in the body by slowing down the heart rate and lowering blood pressure

While dopamine is notably impacted by almost all substance use, other neurotransmitters are impacted by specific substances. Therefore, the prolonged increase and/or depletion of these chemical messengers can lead to mood disorders or mental illness.

In other cases, people start using alcohol and/or drugs to self-medicate for an existing mental illness. In fact, more than half of Americans who struggle with a substance use disorder have an underlying mental illness, often suffering from depression, anxiety or untreated trauma.

When an individual is struggling with a co-occurring disorder, it is best to treat both illnesses side by side in an integrative approach.

The team at Jackson House is highly trained in treating addiction and mental health. We understand that substance use can heighten mental health issues. Likewise, we know mental health issues increase the risk of substance abuse and dependency. These conditions are often entwined in a vicious cycle and no matter the reason your substance use spiraled out of control, we can help you regain control and live a substance-free life.

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