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Discussing mental health issues in the context of drinking and drug abuse is a little like asking "what came first the chicken or the egg?" Did you begin drinking or using drugs because you were depressed or did drinking and drug use make you depressed. We know that alcohol and many drugs are officially classified as depressants and we know that the problems resulting from abuse also contribute to feelings of frustration and hopelessness. At the very least drinking and drug use can cause emotional and physical problems to increase in severity.

It is important in treatment to identify co-existing disorders. The existence of two or more illnesses in a person is called "comorbidity" and it is important to qualify the condition early in treatment of alcohol abuse and drug addiction. Identifying another illness such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders does not change the importance of sobriety. Effective treatment of alcohol and drug dependence often causes a dramatic improvement in other symptoms.

For example, the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and certain drugs like Xanax and Vicodin include severe anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. Looking at these symptoms apart from alcohol and drug dependence, it is understandable how a doctor could diagnosis an anxiety disorder but these symptoms will disappear after a few weeks of abstinence and treatment if the other disorder is not an actual condition.

A thorough intake interview by a professional drug and alcohol counselor is critical to prevent a misdiagnosis and making treatment more difficult to obtain. Some individuals fall through the cracks when alcohol and drug treatment centers feel they are better suited for a mental health program and the mental health program decides they should receive drug and alcohol treatment first. This falling through the cracks of the health care system is not acceptable when people's lives are at stake and must be prevented.

The bottom line is if you are suffering problems due to drinking and using drugs that you cannot solve on your own it is time to seek help. The right treatment facility will diagnosis any co-existing disorders after withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and drugs have cleared up. Learning to live free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol can only have a positive effect on your life.

Many clients of drug and alcohol treatment centers have found the symptoms of other disorders have cleared up as they were being caused by the damaging effects of dependence. Others who have physical and mental disorders that exist independently of drug and alcohol abuse are able to now effectively treat and manage their symptoms rather than making them worse through abuse. In either case seeking treatment was a critical first step.