Is Taking Drugs a Mental Illness?

Close to half of all people in the United States have a loved one or friend who’s suffering from a substance abuse disorder.

Addiction isn’t an easy problem to overcome. One of the reasons it’s tough to overcome is because it’s tough to understand.

People become addicted to real physical substances. But at the same time, isn’t it something in their brain that makes them keep using?

Because of this, people often wonder if taking drugs is a mental illness. This article will shed some light on the issue and teach you about residential addiction treatment in MA.

There Is No Easy Answer

Before we get into the meat of this article, we should make one thing perfectly clear: there’s no easy answer to this question. When considering the question of whether or not drug addiction is a mental illness, it’s best to look at the issue from a multitude of angles.

Addiction is a very personal struggle and affects everyone differently. It often affects the way people think. In order to overcome it, people have to learn how to think differently.

Because of this, there are a number of ways to answer this question. However, there’s no scientific, spiritual, or psychological proof we can point to.

The Quick Answer

If we had to give a quick answer to the question “is taking drugs a mental illness?”, that answer would be no.

Many people explore drugs at a certain point in their life. If someone finds themselves wrapped up in a crowd, pop-cultural moment, or a scene where drug use is central, they might find themselves experimenting with drugs. This is a problem in-of-itself, but it isn’t indicative of a mental illness.

Even when people take drugs on their own, this is not a mental illness.

When Things Get Complicated

The answer to this question gets a little more complicated when you introduce the question of addiction to the mix.

Sure, someone taking a drug at a party isn’t always indicative of a mental illness. However, someone taking drugs habitually is still “taking” drugs. When someone suffers from a substance use disorder in Massachusetts, is this a result of a mental illness?

Let’s take a look at some more phenomena to see if they can shed some more light on this question.

A Family Illness

Drug abuse is far more common in people who have a family history of drug abuse. Those who have seen their parents treat substances in a certain way are more likely to adopt these behaviors.

However, it’s hard to draw conclusions from this fact. Mental illnesses are often passed down through the family — but so are many physical conditions, such as heart disease.


Many people who suffer from traumatic events end up turning to substance abuse by coping. This is demonstrated by the vast amount of veterans with substance abuse disorders.

However, at the end of the day, this fact is also inconclusive. One could easily argue that the act of these people taking drugs isn’t a mental illness — it’s something they’re doing to escape a mental illness.

High Functioning Sufferers

There are many people who suffer from drug abuse disorders but do not even notice. These are usually those who are suffering from an alcohol use disorder. They don’t notice the problem because alcohol use is accepted in our society.

High functioning sufferers are usually only high functioning for a certain amount of time before they start to truly feel the effects of the substance abuse. However, in that brief period where they seemed to manage their addiction — were they experiencing an illness — or just the preludes to one?

The answer is hard to say.

A Simbiotic Relationship

The truth of the matter is that drug abuse addictions and mental illnesses are separate problems that are inextricably bound. Those suffering from mental illnesses are far more likely to develop addiction issues, and those suffering from addictions are far more likely to develop mental health issues.

This is because most of the symptoms of serious drug addiction are similar to the symptoms of severe mental illness. People often abdicate responsibilities, lose interest in things they love, and lose connections.

At the same time, the state one is put in because of mental illness makes one highly susceptible to developing a substance abuse disorder. It’s easy to point at the drugs and call them the problem when really the problem started much earlier.

With that being said, this does not mean the substance abuse issue shouldn’t be addressed. People suffering from substance abuse issues should undergo a dual diagnosis problem that treats both a person’s substance abuse and mental health issues; an individual treatment for each person.

At the end of the day, the fact that these programs are called “dual diagnosis” programs implies that it’s helpful to look at mental illness and drug abuse as separate issues from each other, but as separate issues that often work in tandem; partners in crime.

A Spiritual Condition

Some people — even those who aren’t religious  — find it helpful to look at drug abuse as a “spiritual condition.” This is because it puts it separate from mental and physical health conditions.

While the above examples point to a link between mental illness and drug addiction, there’s also a connection between drug addiction and physical health. Drug addictions cause many physical health problems, and withdrawal symptoms require many people to need drug detox in MA or alcohol detox in MA.

Drug abuse is a unique affliction because it feels good at the moment. A broken arm (physical) or a panic attack (mental) never feels good, but actually using a drug does; it’s the consequences that hurt.

This is a good explanation as to why people need to specifically get rehab treatment, instead of just mental health treatment.

Find Great Addiction Treatment in MA

The act of taking drugs isn’t a mental illness. In a very technical way, substance abuse isn’t a mental illness either. However, mental illness and substance abuse are so tied up with each other that it’s important to always keep one in mind when talking about the other.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse issue, you should find yourself in great addiction treatment in MA.

For more information on drug rehab in MA, contact us today.

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