Mental Health Awareness: Substance Abuse

The Healing and Wholeness committee at LOC hopes to continue offering support, resources, prayer and encouragement to those experiencing mental illness. We hope our Caring Corner can provide that. 

A very difficult challenge in life for some people is co-occurring substance abuse along with mental illness. A substance use disorder (SUD) is a mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior leading to a person’s inability to control their use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs and/or alcohol.   According to the National Institute of Mental Health, research has shown that half of those experiencing SUD will also experience in their life time a co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and others. Although current research shows one does not necessarily cause the other.  It suggests three possibilities where they may occur together. Common risk factors:

- They can both run in families thus genes may be a factor. Environmental factors such as stress or trauma can cause genetic changes that can be passed down through generations.

-Mental health disorders can contribute to SUD:  Studies have found that people with mental health disorders such as those listed above may use drugs or alcohol for self-medication.  Also, some experience brain changes and they get rewarding effects from substances and thus continue to abuse.

-Substance abuse can contribute to mental health disorders over time triggering changes in brain structure and function that can make a person more likely to develop a mental health disorder.


If ignored and no treatment is received, the condition is likely to get worse.  It is recommended that it is better to treat these two together rather than separately to assure therapies and medications are tailored to an individual’s specific combination of needs.  Research has found that there are several excellent therapies and medications now that can help the person regain their life.  This co-occurring diagnosis can also be very difficult for family and friends of the person as well.  There are excellent resources and services such as the websites NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and My Quiet Cave (a spiritual and wellness website) that can help provide support for the person struggling as well as loved ones during and after the recovery process.  The LOC website has several links for help during this difficult time under the Support link. The LOC library also has several excellent books on this topic.

LOC members, we are there for you and want to support you in this journey.  You are not alone. Things can be done to conquer this to get on the road to recovery and reclaim lives back.  There is always HOPE!  YOU ARE GOD’S BELOVED. As Jeremiah 17:14 says, Heal me Lord and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved for you are the one I praise. 

Lona Jose

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