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The Relationship Between Addictions and Mental Health: An Overview for Students in CSW Training

March 7, 2018

community services worker college

Community Services Workers (CSWs) will almost invariably encounter individuals living with both an addiction and a mental health issue. The connections between these two sets of issues can be complex, and can be a source of some distress for those individuals living with them both. In completing training that covers both areas, future community services workers can better understand the experiences of individuals with mental health and additions issues, and thereby offer them greater assistance in managing their conditions.

Here is a closer look at the relationship between addictions and mental health.

Addiction and Mental Health Issues: An Established Connection

Many Canadians live with a mental illness. In fact, a recent study indicated that an estimated 3 million Canadian adults (11.6 per cent of the population) reported that they lived with a mood and/or anxiety disorder. In addition, an estimated 9.2 of Canadians will develop PTSD, and approximately 1 per cent of Canadians live with schizophrenia. All in all, statistics demonstrate that roughly half the population will experience a mental illness at some point in their life.

Other studies have demonstrated that people who have a mental illness are more likely to also form an addiction. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states that “People with a mental illness are twice as likely to have a substance use problem compared to the general population,” and that “At least 20% of people with a mental illness have a co-occurring substance use problem.”

Graduates of CSW Courses Know Certain Substances Can Exacerbate Mental Health Issues

While establishing which condition typically “comes first” remains difficult, graduates of CSW training will observe that many substances, including alcohol, stimulants, and opioids can have a negative effect on mental health. According to some studies, “people with substance use problems are up to 3 times more likely to have a mental illness.”

In fact, addiction can sometimes be recognized in individuals before any official diagnosis concerning mental health is made, and may even serve as an early indicator of mental illness. Conversely, it’s possible for an addiction to develop later on, after a mental illness has grown in severity to a point where an individual feels compelled to self-medicate to find relief.

Grads of CSW courses will know this relationship is commonly a destructive one. Many drugs—including prescription opioids, amphetamines, cocaine, and others—can alter brain chemistry, potentially exacerbating issues for those with a mental illness.

Drug use can exacerbate mental illness

Drug use can exacerbate mental illness

Professionals With CSW Training Can Help Break the Cycle

When it comes to taking action to help an individual who has an addiction and mental illness, certain approaches can be especially beneficial. Notably, experts have consistently pointed towards reducing the stigma surrounding both of these conditions.

For many individuals, stigma can discourage them from seeking the help of a trained CSW. In addition, many people living with an addiction and a mental illness can themselves believe the stereotypes surrounding these conditions, in turn believing that they might not be worthy of care. By showing compassion and understanding throughout your career, you can help eliminate these barriers to recovery. By showing both clients and the public that these conditions do not define the value of a person, you can help demonstrate that all members of the community deserve love, respect, and the care they need to recover and thrive.

Do you want to help individuals in need in your community?

Contact NAHB to learn how community service worker college can prepare you for this truly rewarding career.


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