Children and teenagers who have been treated for a mental disorder are more likely to abuse drugs, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They discovered that mental illness among young people can cause them to seek out the medicinal effects of narcotics at a higher rate than those that have not had a mental illness. This information is intended to be a warning to parents. Knowing that your child is suffering, or has suffered, from a mental illness means parents should be especially watchful of potential substance abuse issues.
Researchers of the study gathered information from more than 10,000 teens. They found that there was a significant relationship between mental illness and drug and alcohol dependence and noted that prior to first alcohol or drug use, mental illness was already present and documented. According to the study that appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, two thirds of teenagers with substance abuse problems also had some form of mental disorder.
“Recognizing anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders – and even the symptoms of these conditions – in youth and helping children to cope, treating them when necessary, is the best approach because then they will be less likely to seek drugs and alcohol to treat the symptoms of these conditions,” explained study author Kathleen R. Merikangas, PhD.
This is further evidence to support the need for treating co-occurring disorders as well as incorporating more drug abuse prevention measures for young people dealing with other issues.