Further Research on Substance Abuse and Severe Mental Illness

A new article at the Huffington Post by Sarah Peters (Research Links Severe Mental Illness and Substance Use) reiterates the observation that mental illnesses and substance-abuse disorders appear to be strongly connected, and points to new data supporting those observations, as well as further insights being examined in connection with the new data.

Specifically, the University of Southern California and Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis conducted a joint study of nearly 20,000 individuals, collecting data over a 5-year period.  “What we are learning is that this overlap of mental illness with addictive disorders is not random,” said the National Institute on Drug Abuse Deputy Director Wilson Compton. The organization, part of the National Institute for Heath, provided the funding for the study.

The study examined nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and recreational drug use in mentally healthy test subjects and psychiatric patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder, finding that 30% of those with a severe mental illness engaged in binge drinking, for instance, compared to 8% in the mentally healthy population.

“This kind of work is particularly important for the psychiatric community and treating clinicians. For far too long psychiatry has ignored the problems related to substances while they focused on the mental illness of their patients.”

“Putting this on the radar as such a huge problem in this population of people with severe mental illness will help us both with the clinical treatment of the comorbidity and it will also help us researchers begin to understand the overlap,” lead author for the article and Washington University researcher Sarah Hartz said. “When people come in for severe mental illness, we need to also treat the substance abuse. We can’t treat them independent from each other.”

For the full Huffington Post article CLICK HERE.

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