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Can Addiction Cause Mental Illness?

March 30th, 2011 – Posted by Betty Ford Center in
Tags: Addiction mental illness


 Sean Barlow, M.D., Betty Ford Center’s Chief Psychiatrist, recently responded to the following questions:

  •  What is a ‘working definition’ of insanity? 

Insanity is a legal definition used to base competence, not a psychiatric or mental health definition.

  • Can addiction suppress mental illness?

No.  Addiction tends to make mental illness worse.

  • Can addiction cause mental illness?

Yes.  Addiction can cause substance-induced psychiatric disorders, and the treatment is sobriety – not traditional pharmacological treatment.  Also, there are burgeoning reports that cannabis is a risk factor for the development of psychosis.  If a person is already predisposed because of genetics, environment, social situation, etc., cannabis can hasten the onset of psychotic illness.

  • If a mentally ill person is weaned off addictive substances in a professional fashion, can he/she ever fully regain ‘sanity?’

Yes.  If a patient has lost reason because of drug use, then the person is capable of regaining mental health with proper treatment.

  • Can anger cause mental illness?

No.  Anger is a feeling, although it can be part of mental illness.

Related posts:

  1. Anger Management Group Important in Treatment


3 Responses to “Can Addiction Cause Mental Illness?”

  1. Ormond O. says:

    If you have peer-reviewed links to “burgeoning reports” of cannabis increasing likelihood of mental illness, please post them.

    What I find much more likely is that mental illness causes a desire for relief from mental and physical pain, for which cannabis is an excellent therapy, with no competently reported bad effects.

    Once again, peer-reviewed links, please.

  2. Betty Ford Center says:

    Thank you for the question. The burgeoning reports were not to the causing of mental illness generally but psychosis, and specifically schizophrenia with cannabis use. Here are a number of peer–reviewed articles, and from there many more referenced papers.
    1. Cannabis use and the risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review. The Lancet vol 370 iss 9584; 319 -328 July ’07 Moore.
    2. Cannabis – induced psychosis and subsequent schizophrenia spectrum disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry (2005) 187; 510-517. Arendt
    3. Causal association between cannabis and psychosis: examination of the evidence. (2004) 184: 110-117. British Journal of Psychiatry . Arsenseault.
    4. Cannabis use and the risk of later schizophrenia: a review. Journal of addiction 2004, 99, 425-430. Smit
    5. Testing hypotheses about the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis. Drug and alcohol dependence, vol 71, issue 1, 7/20/03. Degenhardt
    6. Cannabis vulnerability , and the onset of schizophrenia: an epidemiological perspective. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. (2000) vol 34; 468-475. Hambrecht

    [Information provided by Sean Barlow MD]

  3. Kris says:

    I’m really into it, thanks for this great stuff!

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