U.S. Veteran Tanner Iskra Discusses How Substance or Alcohol Abuse Can Hide Severe Mental Illness

Mental Illness

A substance abuse addiction is bad enough. Once the body moves into a physical trap of needing a substance again and again, the brain starts to create the chemical reactions that reinforce the needs, becoming extremely hard to break through withdrawals and similar techniques. However, combining addiction with a mental disorder such as severe depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), what might have been a hard challenge suddenly becomes trying to span the Grand Canyon with a single roll of rope, in Tanner Iskra’s opinion. As a former Marine and veteran, Iskra knows how easy it is to go down the addiction rabbit hole when things are falling apart.

Dual Diagnosis Identification

The combination of addiction, along with anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression, is technically referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring condition. However, for the sufferer, it’s practically a trap the person can’t pull themselves out of, even with professional help; their disorder reinforces the addiction and makes it worse.

Tanner Iskra notes mental health problems and substance abuse combo cases are not isolated either. Based on tracking research, one out of two individuals in the severe mental disorder range also have a proclivity for substance abuse impact. More than a third of alcoholics as well as one out of two drug abusers, suffer from mental health conditions as well. And a third of those diagnosed with mental health issues already have an addiction to drugs or alcohol as well. In short, the two negative conditions combine for a serious, out-of-control complex diagnosis. The commonality is often rooted in the need to find relief from the symptoms of mental illness; many patients use drinking or drug abuse to escape. Iskra has seen it in fellow veterans again and again.

Difficulties Hide the Need for More Help

Many times, once a patient is admitted, the mental health disorder present is disguised by the immediate symptoms of addiction abuse and withdrawal reactions. It’s only once the patient is past the traditional withdrawal stages that the mental health illness starts to become more apparent if a patient can stay in treatment long enough.

Given the dual reinforcement, many patients suffering from both situations simultaneously can seem like “lost causes” to medical staff, repeatedly showing an inability to migrate toward help and healing. These cases frequently have a high rate of severe depression and PTSD, among other conditions. As a result, these “difficult” patients end up, on average, getting the least amount of care for addictions because better results are seen with other patients who are more cooperative. In Tanner Iskra’s view, the outcome is a self-defeating scenario that doesn’t improve without proactive recognition of the dual diagnosis situation.

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