Dr Jonathan Avery Discusses Causes and Consequences of Concurrent Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders

May 31, 2019

People with mental illnesses often turn to using substances for self-medication, but this combination causes many problems that worsen quality of life, said Jonathan Avery, MD, director of addiction psychiatry, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center.

People with mental illnesses often turn to using substances for self-medication, but this combination causes many problems that worsen quality of life, said Jonathan Avery, MD, director of addiction psychiatry, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Transcript

How do co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illnesses affect a person’s quality of life?

So co-occurring disorders really impact the quality of life for a number of reasons. One is that it’s one thing to struggle with a mental health issue or a substance use disorder, but so often they co-occur and it can be very challenging to find good treatments and effective treatments that can address both. When either the mental illness or the substance use isn’t addressed, it can lead to a lot of problems in terms of how you feel, functional problems, relationship problems, and so our goal is really to encourage all doctors, providers to treat all conditions at once, all co-occurring conditions, because otherwise it’s gonna really impact the quality of people’s lives.

How can substance use increase one’s risk of developing a psychiatric disorder or worsen an existing one?

At times you hear about people starting substance use for self-medication reasons, and often that is how people start: They feel a certain way, depressed, anxious, and they start using substances to help cope, and that, while helping in the moment, always in the long term leads to more problems and disability. It can seem like a good answer in the moment, but I always tell people that eventually it’s going to take over and cause significant impairment.