Drug addictions and mental illnesses have long been connected, though whether one causes the other can vary from case to case or be a non factor altogether. For example, numerous studies and polls have shown that nearly 50% of people suffering from depression or bipolar disorder have drug addictions. People with personality disorders and mental illness often turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, while prolonged drug use can lead to potential psychiatric problems. This can be as simple as the chemical balances in the brain, or stem to withdrawal symptoms. It seems to be a two way street, and has long deserved more attention than it has gotten until now.
When its someone you know or someone a friend knows its a sad story, but it seems that problems of this nature dont really hit close to home until the mainstream media pours a can of gasoline onto a match. For example, the circus surrounding actor Charlie Sheen over the past couple of weeks has sparked more interest into the realm of both drug addiction and mental illness. An admitted drug user over many years, Sheen still denies any sort of mental issues. When asked about bipolar disorder, he returned fire by questioning the definition as if he didnt know what the reporter was talking about. Instead, referring to himself as suffering bi-winning disorder, an apparent new catchphrase that has taken the internet by storm along with other quips and words such as tiger blood and high priest Vatican assassin warlock.
Outbursts of this nature point to an ongoing drug problem, mental problem, or even a combination of the two. Sheen, who denies having either issue anymore only fuels the fire when given the spotlight that has been so generous as of late. When trying to convince the world that you have neither a drug or mental problem, screaming from the roof top with a bottle of booze and a machete is certainly not the way to prove your case. Living a life where drugs are so easily accessible can make shaking an addiction, and subsequently a mental illness, so much harder to eliminate.
The mistake that is made far too often when trying to self-diagnose (or diagnose problems of others) is that we have to begin with a which came first, the chicken or the egg? scenario. Both problems need to be treated, but determining the root of the problem can be the biggest help to overcoming it. People often tend to self medicate when undergoing the stress of a mental illness that they may not even know they suffer from. If this is the case then drug abuse can begin to feel like the only way out for the victim, making the habit even harder to kick.
Doctors now believe that addressing both concerns simultaneously is the best option, because the old school way of thinking (fix the addiction and everything else will fix itself) has been proven ineffective. The one positive thing, the silver lining if you will of the entire Sheen saga is that more interest in the area of mental health as well as drug addiction has been garnered. If you feel that a friend or family member may be suffering from one or both of these problems, act as soon as you can to intervene and get them help. Ask your doctor for information on counseling, or other treatment options.