3 Common Mental Health Myths Surrounding Addiction

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Myths about mental health and addiction are everywhere. Often, they prevent young people from getting the help when they need it most.

Let’s learn about how poor mental health and addiction go hand in hand, and three common myths surrounding them.

Myth #1: Mental health issues are rare.

FACT: In 2019, the World Health Organization reported 1 in every 8 people—around 970 million worldwide—were living with a mental health disorder (1). By 2020, as the COVID pandemic took hold, numbers jumped even higher with more than a 25 percent increase in anxiety and depression.

Given the statistics, chances are that you or someone you know will suffer from a mental illness during your lifetime. But what exactly does this have to do with addiction?

Research shows mental health disorders are frequently at the root of addiction. In fact, those with mental illness are twice as likely to have a substance use disorder (2). These statistics highlight the importance of recognizing and treating mental health struggles as they arise, before any future substance use evolves into addiction.

Signs you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression include:

· Loss of interest in hobbies they once enjoyed

· Restlessness or feelings of being “on edge”

· Feelings of hopelessness or numbness

· Unexplained weight loss or gain

· Loss of appetite

· Insomnia

· Severe fatigue

· Uncontrollable, negative thoughts

Myth #2: People use childhood trauma as an excuse to use drugs.

FACT: Many individuals in recovery will describe opioid use as an “escape” from mental and emotional pain. In some cases, whether those suffering realize it or not, that pain stems all the way from childhood.

Research confirms that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) increase the risk of health problems later in life—and that includes addiction. The most common ACEs include witnessing violence, experiencing abuse, or being neglected (3) during childhood.

As harmful as substances like opioids are, they offer many people a feeling of temporary relief from pain and trauma. It’s why so many teens and adults turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism, often with negative consequences.

If you or someone you know has experienced childhood trauma, find an adult to confide in or a mental health professional who can help.


Myth #3: There’s no recovering from a mental health disorder or addiction.

FACT: A hallmark symptom of a mental health illness such as depression is hopelessness.

Many experiencing addiction and/or depression truly believe they’ll never feel joy again or be able to stop using drugs. Fortunately, this is not true.

Hope exists, and recovery does, too.

In co-occurring diagnoses of a substance abuse problem and mental health issue, each comes with its own set of symptoms. Together, it may feel impossible to navigate daily responsibilities like school, work, and relationships. Left untreated, mental health disorders cause substance abuse problems to worsen—and vice versa (4). Addiction can heighten the symptoms of not only anxiety and depression, but also other illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

If you or someone you know feels hopeless about recovery, rest assured that help exists. Empowering yourself by understanding the cause of illness is often the first step in sparking change.

Browse our recovery resources and learn more about how to find help today.

Learn more about GameChanger.

Created in 2018, GameChanger is a student-powered movement with focus on substance misuse prevention among youths. We connect students, educators, and communities with education, training, coaching, and support services to prevent opioid and other drug use before it starts.

Learn more today.


  1. Mental disorders. World Health Organization. 08 June 2022. Accessed https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders
  2. Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics. CAMH. Accessed from: https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics
  3. Addiction, Mental Health, and Trauma. Shatterproof. Accessed from: https://www.shatterproof.org/learn/addiction-basics/addiction-mental-health-trauma
  4. Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Robinson, Lawrence; Smith, Melinda; and Segal, Jeanne. Accessed from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/substance-abuse-and-mental-health.htm
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