Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses
There is much evidence to back up the fact that drug use disorders and mental illnesses commonly go hand in hand. There are a few factors that both of these diseases have in common. Involvement of similar brain regions and overlapping genetic vulnerabilities are a couple. Some areas of the brain are affected by both drug use and disorders. A chemical in the brain called dopamine, which is responsible for carrying messages from neuron to neuron, are usually affected by addictive substances. Dopamine may also be involved in depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders. There is a search for genes that might predispose individuals to develop both drug addiction and other mental illnesses. It is estimated that 40-60 percent of an individual's vulnerability to addiction is attributed to genetics. The development of drug use disorders and mental illnesses could be influenced by genes. Genes can act indirectly by altering how an individual responds to stress or by increasing the likelihood of risk-taking and novelty seeking behaviors (n.a., 2010). Adolescence is a very vulnerable time for an individual's development. Drug use often begins in adolescence and this is also when the fist signs of mental illness commonly appear. When drugs are abused they affect circuits in the brain that are still maturing into early adulthood such as learning and memory, reward, decision making, and behavioral control. It is said that early occurrence increases later risk. Early drug use can be a risk factor for substance abuse problems later in life. It is also suggested that this may also be a risk factor for the later occurrence of other mental illnesses. Findings in a study done in 2005 suggests that frequent use of marijuana use during adolescence can increase the risk of psychosis in adulthood (n.a., 2010). This was only prevalent in those who carry a particular gene variant. On the flip side it is also true that having...
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