Private Consultation (800) 344-5427  |  Contact Form
mental health and addiction

The Correlation Between Mental Health and Addiction

There is an undeniable correlation between mental health disorders and addiction, and why wouldn’t there be? These two areas share a common link in the chemical imbalance and brain functions which present challenges shared across each groups.

A few statistics which help to underpin these correlations lie in a study where it was discovered that over 60 percent of adolescents in community-based substance use disorder treatment programs also meet diagnostic criteria for another mental illness1. Similarly, a study conducted from 2015-2018 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) concluded that 1 in every 4 individuals with a serious mental illness also have substances use disorder.

No one is saying that addiction has to exist where mental illness is present but to ignore the correlations will only make the experience of individuals going through a battle with a mental illness or drug addiction that much more difficult. We will explore some of these correlations, and aim educate members of both parties while also learning how this knowledge can be used as an extension of treatment and positive outlook.

Common Risk Factors For Both Mental Health and Addiction

As we mentioned previously, both mental health and addiction share a link between brain function and the chemicals which induce responses. With the commonality in the source of both areas, there are similar risk factors which can impact both mental illnesses and substance abuse:

  • Genetics: This is fairly obvious but individuals should cut themselves some slack when diagnosed with either mental illnesses or an addiction disorder. It is estimated that 40-60 percent of an individual’s vulnerability to substance use disorder is attributable to genetics. With further research specific gene factors are identified that predispose an individual to alcohol dependence, nicotine, cocaine dependence, heavy opioid use, and cannabis cravings and withdrawals2. Genetics also can play a major role in the deregulation of dopamine and/or serotonin which impact one’s risk for mental illness3,4.
  • Environmental: The environment an individual is exposed to plays a major factor in the potential for mental illness and addiction. A clear proof point to this can be found in the Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health, where it states that the outcomes of substance use and mental illness can be reduced when modifying the environment of individuals are present.
  • Stress: There’s a firm reason why it’s recommended to reduce stress in one’s life early and often. Added stress has a neurobiological link between the disease processes of substance use disorder as well as mental health disorders5,6,7. The chemicals which help us to regulate emotions, responses, composure, and decision making are weakened and impaired over time of heavily induced stress, opening the door to lapses in mental health illness and addiction.
  • Trauma: This is the last most common link between both mental illness and addiction. Physical or emotional trauma takes its toll and leaves individuals far more susceptible to risk of drug use and mental illness8. One particular correlation in veterans revealed that approximately 1 in 5 veterans with PTSD also suffer from substance abuse disorder9.

Cause” Is A Two Way Street For Mental Health and Addiction

As we’ve mentioned, the areas of mental health and addiction are linked. With this understood, individuals have their own unique stories and journeys towards these two worlds colliding. In some cases, a individual may become afflicted by a mental illness and seek to self-medicate. When these solutions falter, individuals may seek illegal drugs as a last resort for some potential solution or relief.

Adversely, an individual who is introduced to illegal drugs may progressively abuse through their addiction which will likely disrupt the same brain areas chemically linked to mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, mood, or impulse-control disorders and more.

It’s like asking the question, “which came first, the chicken or the egg…” The answer doesn’t quite matter as much as the understanding and eventual solution. Some individuals fall to addiction through their mental illness, while others become and addicted and are left picking up the pieces of the mental health. The keys to understand, this is not entirely their fault, and there is hope for sobriety and treatment.

Correlations Of Treating Mental Health and Addiction

At Long Island Center for Recovery (LICR), we do not treat individuals for mental health disorders, but with mental health and addiction closely linked there are many areas within the inpatient rehab program which aim to focus on both the medically assisted treatment for our clients as well as the mental and cognitive behavioral aspects of their recovery. Therapy sessions for individuals, families, and groups, as well as activities like the 12 Step Program and meditation practices all focus on strengthening clients mental health while overcoming their substance abuse for a sustainable and sober future.

We hope you found this information helpful and hope that the correlations between mental health and addiction are clearer. If you or a loved one needs any additional assistance with addiction treatment services, please reach out to Long Island Center for Recovery at 631-728-3100, and we’d be happy to assist you or your loved ones in any way possible.


NIDA: Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report

SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Mental Health

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  1. Hser YI, Grella CE, Hubbard RL, et al. An evaluation of drug treatments for adolescents in 4 US cities. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001;58(7):689-695.
  2. Wang J-C, Kapoor M, Goate AM. The genetics of substance dependence. Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2012;13:241-261. doi:10.1146/annurev-genom-090711-163844.
  3. Wang J-C, Kapoor M, Goate AM. The genetics of substance dependence. Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2012;13:241-261. doi:10.1146/annurev-genom-090711-163844.
  4. Wang J-C, Kapoor M, Goate AM. The genetics of substance dependence. Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2012;13:241-261. doi:10.1146/annurev-genom-090711-163844.
  5. Kelly TM, Daley DC. Integrated Treatment of Substance Use and Psychiatric Disorders. Soc Work Public Health. 2013;28(0):388-406. doi:10.1080/19371918.2013.774673.
  6. Enoch M-A. The influence of gene-environment interactions on the development of alcoholism and drug dependence. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2012;14(2):150-158. doi:10.1007/s11920-011-0252-9.
  7. Norman SB, Myers US, Wilkins KC, et al. Review of biological mechanisms and pharmacological treatments of comorbid PTSD and substance use disorder. Neuropharmacology. 2012;62(2):542-551. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.04.032.
  8. Berenz EC, Coffey SF. Treatment of Co-occurring Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2012;14(5):469-477. doi:10.1007/s11920-012-0300-0.

VA Health Care, National Center for PTSD. Understanding PTSD and Substance Abuse. National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


Meth Cut With MSM – Are There Hidden Dangers?
Keep Reading

Are There Hidden Dangers When Meth Is Cut With MSM

The use of crystal meth as a recreational substance is a highly dangerous and risk activity. Those afflicted with meth addiction will seek help, treatment, and freedom they deserve when the time is right, however, clients seeking meth addiction treatment have asked what the dangers are from use of meth that has been cut with […]

Read Article

Need Information on Addiction Treatment Programs on Long Island?

Fill out our form, and we will contact you shortly or provide you with the information requested.

    Please do not send personal medical info in your message

    How Did You Hear About Us?