I’ve long been interested in the connection between mental health and addiction because the worlds of recovery are so similar and yet so different. One of my biggest frustrations in addiction recovery circles is the lack of awareness of mental health–especially the physiological nature that threatens lives. And many depressed folks don’t take seriously enough the addictive nature of sedatives in their pursuit of sanity. So I was happy to interview Howard C. Samuels, Psy.D., author of “Alive Again: Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction” and the founder and president of the prestigious The Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles. An internationally renowned recovery expert, Dr. Samuels appears regularly on national TV news shows about the challenges of drug addiction.
Question: Why is Treating Addiction Not Always a Cure for Treating Mental Illness?
Well, you may have addiction and alcoholism on one hand, but I can tell you, at my facility, we discover many alcoholics also have a chemical imbalance which, if you want to get technical, falls under the category of mental illness. We call these dual-diagnosed patients. And when dealing with a dual-diagnosed patient, the first thing you have to treat is the addiction; because the only way you’re going to get to the mental illness and be able to figure out what it is, is to get the individual clean and sober. It is only in this space that we can do the work and diagnose what kind of mental illness (if any) the patient is afflicted with.