Addiction & Mental Health - The Big Crossover

Hello All - 

Don't we all know someone (I just have to look in the mirror) who faces addiction and/or mental health challenges? I believe credentialed organizations may only be capturing a fraction of those who are suffering from mental health disorders or addiction. To be fair they have to be more conservative in their calculations, but their estimates seem very low.

The World Health Organization claims 5.4% of the world population faces addiction issues. Maybe the places I live have higher rates, but I would guess 10% of the U.S. population faces drug or alcohol addiction. Even if I am high in my estimate - it is likely at least 20-30 Million people in the U.S. suffer from addiction and/or mental health conditions. In addition, we can't forget those who wrestle with prescription drug addiction. 

The Big Crossover - Authorities do agree about 30%-50%  (depending on age group) of those facing addiction issues - also suffer from mental health conditions. I refer to this as getting the "daily double" genetic gift. For example, Depression and Alcoholism often reside together at a 50% rate. The co-morbidity rates of Bipolar disorder and Alcoholism is even higher. People often ask me why this is the case with bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse. In my teens and twenties I found my bipolar "Nascar Race Mind" could be "slowed down" by large amounts of alcohol consumption. However, the long term impact of alcohol abuse on a bipolar patient can be catastrophic. Suicide rates among bipolar-alcoholics is 50% higher than general population - not to mention they have shorter life spans (8.5 years among middle age adults). We often lead unhealthier lifestyles and develop other health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.

It is estimated only 15% of those who need treatment for drugs, alcohol abuse, and mental health actually receive treatment. I think we all know people who have never received treatment or have stopped complying with a treatment program. 

What comes first - mental health or drug/alcohol abuse? Experts disagree on this question. However, I believe addressing depression or bipolar disorder gives you a "better chance" to tackle addiction challenges. I am not a believer in "pill only" treatment for depression or bipolar disorder. I think medication can play an important role, but in my case I needed a much more comprehensive program. A future blog will detail my personal approach to effective treatment of bipolar and alcohol abuse.  

In closing, I encourage all of you to use the MedCircle ( app for receiving the latest credentialed information on these health disorders. In addition, MedCircle lets you select from over 200 common health topics - where the news is delivered to you (no searching required). 



Douglas Colbeth