Could Addiction and Mental Illness have the Same Cause?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20.2 million adults had a substance disorder in the United States in 2014, and of those almost 40% had co-occurring mental illness — a much higher rate of mental illness than that of the general population. This suggests that addiction often arises out of deeper or more complicated psychological factors.

I would argue, in fact, that all addictions arise out of a deeper psychological rift. And also that the reverse is true (and this is a somewhat more radical idea): that addiction is invariably part and parcel of a psychological illness, even when that illness doesn’t manifest as an obvious compulsion.

Rehab for Depression

What is the overlap? Common psychological problems -- such as depression, anxiety and obsession -- are conditions that, much like addiction, entail being trapped in mental feedback loops. We worry, we obsess, we bemoan past events or worry about future ones, and so remain stuck in agitation or malaise (and in the case of addiction, simultaneously obsessed with the next fix). We implode into these thought patterns and thus become disconnected from things and people, and cease to feel curious, engaged -- alive.

This is, admittedly, a somewhat “spiritual” interpretation of addiction and mental illness -- which is to say, looking at it as a deeper energetic problem, and not just a symptom of incorrect biochemistry.

At the same time, all mental illnesses (including addiction), both grow and (later) manifest in social, behavioral, psychological and physiological ways. And thus, treating any mental illness or personality problem has to consider the entire spectrum of the person. Which means restoring the physical brain and body through proper nutrition, supplementation and exercise, while also pushing to create psychic openings through new habits, psychotherapy and other forms of introspection, and various avenues of exploration.

This is the formula we use at Inscape not only as a treatment for addiction and ibogaine aftercare, but as a treatment for depression and anxiety, or for any mental illness or personality issue. Because, in the end, we are not treating any specific condition, but the person who is afflicted. This approach acknowledges the realness and seriousness of a given problem, but also its personal nature, as well as the individual’s (perhaps latent) power to boldly confront it, crumble its stranglehold and reach toward dimensions beyond.