Mental health sufferers more likely to turn to drugs & alcohol - study

Reuters / Luke MacGregor
Patients suffering from mental health problems are up to 10 times more likely to use alcohol and drugs, according to a Norwegian study. The researchers also discovered young people in early stages of schizophrenia are acutely prone to substance abuse.

The report was undertaken by the Norwegian Institute for Public Health (NIPH), which is based in the capital, Oslo. It looked to determine the extent of drug and alcohol dependence amongst Norwegians diagnosed with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The study surveyed men and women aged between 24 and 63 over a five-year period, with the research ending in 2013. Only those who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar or major depressive disorders on at least two occasions were considered for the project.

“We have learned from international studies that there is a higher incidence of substance abuse among people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression,” Ragnar Nesvag, one of the co-authors, was quoted by NIPH website Sunday.

“This is the first time there has been such an extensive study in Norway that we are aware of. In a population of 2.6 million residents born between 1950 and 1989, we found there were around 9,000 people with schizophrenia, 15,000 bipolar suffers and 87,000 with a major depressive order,” the researcher added.

The findings showed that a quarter of schizophrenia patients and one in five bipolar disorder sufferers had problems with substance abuse. The figures also found that one in 10 people with severe depression had problems with alcohol or drugs.

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Alcohol was more likely to be abused by middle-aged men with bipolar disorder, while young men and women suffering from schizophrenia were at a greater risk of using drugs. It is estimated that around one in forty Norwegians take part in some sort of substance abuse, the Local reports.

The authors of the study also urged more to be done to help combat the problems experienced by metal health suffers.

“The alarmingly high prevalence of drug user disorders among young patients with severe mental disorders should encourage preventive efforts to reduce illicit drug use in the adolescent population,” Nesvag, wrote in the publication produced by the team.

Nesvag, was also warned of the dangers that some drugs such as cannabis can have on those suffering from mental health problems. He added that political moves in some countries, such as the US, to increase legalization could have a detrimental effect on some patients.

“Of particular importance is the widespread use of cannabis and stimulants, which may be expected to increase, given the political movement in US and elsewhere aiming to legalize the use of cannabis,” he concluded.