Month: November 2017

Addiction And Mental Illness Correlation

Addiction And Mental Illness Correlation

Addiction And Mental Illness Correlation

Research shows that that a good number of individuals with mental disorders also suffer from substance abuse and vice verser. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), individuals suffering from mental health disorder account for the consumption of 38% of alcohol, 40% of cigarettes and 44% if cocaine.

Dr. Stephen Gilman an addiction psychiatrist from New York University observes that substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders often take place simultaneously. Researchers do not know however why this correlation exists. According to Dr. Gilman, about 50% of individuals suffering from addiction also suffer from a mental illness. And about 20% of individuals suffering from mental illness suffer from addiction problems. These numbers tend to be higher when specific mental conditions are looked into such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and antisocial personality disorders. The numbers are higher in patients suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

A research conducted at the New York University indicated that:

  • Individuals suffering from alcohol addiction exhibited symptoms of schizophrenia when they went into withdraw after abruptly quitting alcohol.
  • Drugs and alcohol can lead to changes in one’s brain and these changes can lead to mental and personality disorders.
  • Most alcoholics also suffer from anxiety and depression. Alcoholic men in particular tend to suffer from antisocial personality disorders as compared to their non-alcoholic counterparts.

Underlying Causes of Mental Illness & Drug Abuse

Studies have shown that there are other underlying factors that could explain the simultaneous occurrence of mental illness and addiction. These include:

  • Studies conducted to compare fraternal and identical twins showed that the likelihood of having disorders in identical twins was higher than in fraternal twins. This shows that genetics could be responsible for some of mental illnesses and addictions.
  • Shared environment. Studies have shown that individuals who are exposed to certain environments are at a higher risk of developing substance addictions and mental illnesses. It is therefore not a wonder that some places have higher cases of mental illness and substance abuse than others. Accessibility to alcohol and drugs in some regions predispose a higher percentage of the population to the risk of developing these addictions, which could ultimately lead to mental illnesses.
  • Chemical deficiency. In situations where addiction and mental disorders occur simultaneously, neuro-chemical factors have been involved. Individuals who suffer from anxiety and alcoholism tend to have lower levels of the brain chemical serotonin. Research has also shown that mental disorders and addiction are linked to the dysfunction of monoamine oxidases, a group of chemicals found in the brain.


Many experts agree that diagnosis in cases where a patient is exhibiting both symptoms of addiction and mental illness is often difficult. For a proper diagnosis to be made, an individual would have to be substance free for no less than two weeks. Ideally, doctors treat both the psychological and addiction symptoms simultaneously. As a result, cases of misdiagnosis are not uncommon. For instance, an addict may exhibit symptoms that are mask bipolar disorder. Having a good medical history of the patient can help doctors identify the underlying issues and offer the appropriate course of treatment.

Understanding the Basics of Anxiety Disorders and Panic Attacks

Understanding the Basics of Anxiety Disorders and Panic Attacks

Understanding the Basics of Anxiety Disorders and Panic Attacks

Anxiety disorders are by large the most frequently occurring mental disorders in today’s world. When most of us become anxious, we tend to feel tense, uncomfortable, and upset. Anxiety disorder is a type of mental illness characterized by high anxiety and extreme tension and discomfort. Most of the times, the anxiety disorders in most individuals go unnoticed, but when it becomes severe, people get into a state of confusion. Their daily life is hampered, and they can’t do the things the way they usually do.

According to a survey, anxiety disorder is becoming very common, and it affects approximately one in every 20 individuals at a particular time. Most often the anxiety disorders start from childhood and attain unbearable proportions during early adulthood. Most common symptoms of anxiety disorders are as follows:

  • Palpitations
  • Breathlessness
  • Trembling
  • Feeling of chocking
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal distress
  • Dizziness

Anxiety disorders affect the way an individual feels, thinks, and behaves. If not treated in time, anxiety disorders can lead to serious complications and interrupt personal and professional life of an individual. There are severe types of anxiety disorders in the human body such as generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, and social phobia.

The main symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are the unrealistic, uncontrollable, and excessive worry about day-to-day things such as money, health, family, friends or career. Phobias are intense fears of particular situations or objects. These phobias may include the fear of dogs, cats, snakes, heights, closed spaces, spiders and so on. The person is normal if he or she is not in front of the feared object or situation. However, when the feared object comes in front of that individual, he or she becomes highly anxious and experiences a panic attack.

When people experience a panic attack, they feel as if they are about to die. Others feel as if they are getting suffocated and in some extreme cases they feel as if they have a heart attack. The first time you get a panic attack, you will be confused, and you may not be able to recognize it from a heart attack or some other ailment. So, it is advisable to meet your medical professional as soon as possible. Because the panic attacks mimic many types of ailments, the medical professional may perform a thorough physical examination.

The medical professional will first ask the patient about the patient’s past mental health history and recent medical history. If the patient has undergone any surgeries in the past, then the medical professional may ask about the details of that operation. So, whenever you go to visit the medical professional for the treatment of a panic attack, it is good to go along with the details of your past surgeries if any.

Before prescribing any medications for the panic attacks, the medical professional will first ask if you are currently on any other remedies for other ailments. The physical examination that is undertaken by the medical professional to comprises a head-to-toe check of all essential organ systems. The doctor or medical professional do conduct a neurological exam that is specially designed to see if the brain is functioning correctly. Depending upon the complexity of the symptoms, some general tests are also advised by the medical professional. These tests include urine tests, blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, and drug screens.

In extreme cases, if there are symptoms that are not related to regular panic attacks, then the doctor or medical professional may even ask the patient to consult a neurologist. A neurologist is a professional who is a specialist with the nervous system and its associated disorders.

In most cases, counseling is also done to understand the mental condition of the patient. The doctors or medical professional may also refer the patient to a psychiatrist or a therapist to understand the underlying cause of panic attacks. The psychiatrist or therapist may give the patient some tips on how to handle the panic attacks. Mostly self-help is the best first aid during a panic attack and the patient needs to be made aware of all the self-help methodologies. Proper treatment and proper medical advice inevitably reduce the panic attacks.

Anxiety Medications And The Human Brain

Anxiety Medications And The Human Brain

Anxiety Medications And The Human Brain

We all get normal bouts of anxiety from time to time, which often come in the form of fear, panic attacks, phobia, or social anxiety when we are going through a stressful situation. While there is the difference between anxiety disorders and normal anxiety isn’t always clear, you will know that your everyday anxiety has crossed the line into a disorder that has taken over your life when you experience the following symptoms on a regular basis, and you may need to seek immediate medical advice;

  • Having persistent anxious thoughts that last more than 6 months
  • Being incredibly restless and irritable
  • Finding yourself lying awake, worried or agitated about specific problems
  • Having an irrational, overwhelming, or disruptive fear attached to a specific situation or thing such as crowds, flying, or animals
  • Near-constant muscle tension
  • Chronic digestive problems such as Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Experiencing a sudden, gripping feeling of fear and helplessness that can last for several minutes, accompanied by scary physical symptoms such as breathing problems, heart palpitations, sweating or flushing
  • Persistent self-doubt and second-guessing yourself and much more

We are all vulnerable to mild anxiety, which can be a tad disconcerting, but severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating. There is a range of coping mechanisms and approaches to alleviate this disorder. Aside from relaxation techniques, second-line treatment, anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Zoloft, or Valium are effective in relieving symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, or extreme fear and worry.

However, it is not uncommon for people to build up a tolerance to Xanax if they are taken over a long period of time or even become dependent on them and when use is discontinued abruptly, people will show withdrawal symptoms, such as high blood pressure, shaking, intense anxiety, which in severe cases may lead to death.

This because while these medications are approved for the treatment of anxiety disorders, they fall into the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) category of medications known to increase serotonin in the brain and regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and digestion.

And while this is generally great for reducing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, prolonged usage of antidepressants has been shown to result in changes in the structure of neurons and cause destructive outcomes such as a reduced blood clotting capacity, a worsening of anxiety symptoms, treatment-induced sexual dysfunction, drowsiness, insomnia, long-term weight gain, as well as increased suicidal behavior in both children and young adults.

Additionally, patients taking SSRIs have been shown to develop insomnia, joint and muscle pain, headaches, skin rashes, nausea, stomach upset, and diarrhea.

Prescription anti-anxiety medications may have a calming effect on individuals with anxiety and many people report feeling a great deal of improvement from them, but medications that are designed to have an impact on the neurotransmitter activity of the brain will often times lead to drug abuse or dependence. It is, therefore, important to discuss with your doctor about the potential problems and side effects of these drugs.

Meth and the Brain

Meth and the Brain

Meth and the brain

Methamphetamine aka meth is one of the worst drugs that are being abused in today’s society by individuals of different ages and statuses. As much as the brain may be made to be resilient and tough, the toxicity and stress levels that are brought about by meth abuse are very intense. One of several drugs that has been classified as a central nervous system stimulant. The brain is normally affected in severe ways in which it may take up to years to actually recover fully in the event that one actually comes all the way back. Users of the specific drug need to understand that the injuries it causes are often times permanent and severe to both the body and the mind.

Abusers of the specific drug normally try to find different ways in which they may consume the drug to achieve a high like no other. The next dosage always has to feel better than the previous one. This then leads to addiction of the drug which is basically one reaching the point where they cannot function well without using.

Various issues are normally associated with the extreme use of the drug and this may lead to it affecting the Central Nervous system which is inclusive of the brain and the spinal cord which basically control most of the things in the human body. Some short term damages that may occur to the brain and the whole CNS include:

The increased death of neurons as the chronic use of methamphetamine is known to kill most neuron in the body. The toxicity of the chemicals used to produce the drug normally attack the neurons in the body hence making them regenerate at a slow pace which after being damaged are actually not recoverable. This then may lead to brain damage as it affects the hippocampus, striatum, parietal cortex, frontal and prefrontal cortex, a number of subcortical structure and the cerebellum.

Nevertheless, it may also lead to the decreased production of the white matter, glycogenesis, levels of dopamine and serotonin transporters, increase of glutamate calcium in the brain, increased damage to the dendrites and neurons, damage of the cytoskeletal and circulatory system of the brain among many other effects.

In the long run an increased use of the drug may result in the in various cognitive effects such as one may have problems with paying attention, memory loss, movement issues, emotional control, paranoia, hallucinations, violent behaviors, psychological or psychiatric issues and judgment and problem solving just to mention but a few.

As for pregnant women, the use of meth during pregnancy may end up damaging the child’s brain as it is very sensitive. One may actually end up having problems dealing with normal issues as well as may cause the child to have slow responses in various thing and may affect even their performance in school.

Hence, in the event that one has a member of their family or even friend affected by the drug, then there is need for them to take action before things get out of hand and one ends up reaching a point of no return. There is still hope if treated early.