Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness?

For decades, drug addiction has been seen as a moral failing. However, increased research into the disease of addiction shows that it's not caused by a lack of willpower or a character flaw — drug addiction is, in fact, a mental illness.

With our increased understanding of the impact addiction has on your brain's chemistry, evidence-based substance abuse treatments have become far more effective and comprehensive.

How Does Addiction Become a Mental Illness?

Drug addiction is a mental illness, but it's not necessarily a mental health condition that you're born with. People begin using drugs for a number of different reasons:

  • It makes them feel good
  • It relieves stress, depression or other intense feelings
  • They believe it improves their performance at work or school
  • They succumb to curiosity or peer pressure
  • They witness drug abuse in their home life


Over time, using drugs can increase your tolerance, which means you need larger amounts to feel the effects. At this point, it's highly likely that you've developed an addiction.

Addiction changes the way your brain works on a fundamental level. Your normal needs and desires are replaced by new priorities, such as seeking and using the substance you've become addicted to. This results in compulsive behaviors and loss of impulse control. Despite the drug's negative effects on your life, you feel like you can't do without it — even as the substance devastates your professional life, your relationships and your health.

Because of the shared characteristics between addiction and mental illness, most substance abuse experts agree that an addiction to drugs can be considered a mental health disorder.

How Can Dual Diagnosis Treatment Help?

Many people experience drug addiction and another mental health condition, such as severe depression, simultaneously. For some, mental illness is present before addiction takes hold. For others, addiction triggers a mental disorder or makes it worse. When you are diagnosed with multiple mental health disorders, this is called a dual diagnosis.

Treating both the drug addiction and the co-occurring mental health condition is essential. Depression, anxiety, PTSD and bipolar disorder are some of the most common mental health problems that co-occur with addiction.

Since dealing with an addiction to drugs as well as mental illness is challenging, treatment is your best chance to lead a fuller and happier life. Treatment may involve detoxification, stabilization, addiction therapy and medication to address withdrawal symptoms and help you deal with the effects of mental illness.

Treatment for Drug Addiction and Mental Illness at Diamond House Detox

At Diamond House Detox, we are proud to provide dual diagnosis treatments for those who struggle with both drug addiction and a mental health condition. With addiction often being tied to an underlying mental illness, it's essential to find a substance abuse treatment program with the ability to provide comprehensive care.

We tailor our medical treatment programs for dual diagnosis to suit your individual needs. From medically monitored detoxification to personalized therapy options, we seek to help you come to terms with your overall mental health and how it relates to addiction.

Ready to break the bonds of mental illness and addiction? Contact us today to find out more.
Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on January 5th, 2020.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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