“Comorbidity” is a strange word, right? Well, at least for me it was. I have to admit it that it was the first scientific word I learned during my internship here at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)–my Spanish accent still gives me a hard time pronouncing it. On the first day of my internship, I had to read and get acquainted with the extensive research that NIDA has done and published. Comorbidity was featured in NIDA’s Research Report Series.
So, what’s co-mor-bid-it-y? Here’s what NIDA scientists say: “When two disorders or illnesses occur in the same person, together or one after the other, they are called comorbid.” Having two disorders together can also cause them to interact in ways that make both of them worse.
So what does all of that really mean? It means that sometimes two illnesses go together. For example, people who have depression or other mental illness are often addicted to drugs as well, and vice versa, so that’s why scientists say depression is often “comorbid with” drug abuse.
NIDA scientists aren’t completely sure why people who are depressed are more likely to have a drug abuse problem. But here’s my take on it. Everyone has felt down before. If someone feels really bad, they may turn to drugs to “ease their mind.” Unfortunately, that can lead to a second disease–addiction to drugs–and then they feel even worse than they did before.
That’s what’s really bad about comorbid diseases: they can make each other worse! If someone is depressed, it’s harder to be motivated to quit using drugs. And if someone is using drugs, it can interfere with their treatment for depression.
What other diseases do you think could be comorbid? And why?
This is a guest SBB post from NIDA intern Giselle.
In the U.S. military, servicemembers ask each other this question to make sure that they're ready and able to accomplish the mission at hand. If someone is "good to go," then they are alert, accountable, and prepared to do their job. Someone who is "good to go" will avoid mistakes and make better decisions.
One thing is for sure: you can't be "good to go" when you're taking drugs.
For you, the workplace might be school or your summer job. If you're not "good to go," it could mean a bad grade on your chemistry test or getting benched on your football team. But for our men and women in uniform, drug use threatens their ability to protect one another and defend our Nation. A lack of concentration or a wrong decision could put everyone in danger. It could even cost someone their life.
That's why the Department of Defense is taking steps to create the largest drug-free workplace in the world. Its zero-tolerance policy (PDF, 51.27KB) on drugs means that servicemembers will have the best mental and physical health necessary to do their jobs.
At the same time, many of our servicemen and women are young and need as much support as they can get. Just like when you had to move to a new school or find a new group of friends, life in the military can be stressful. The day-to-day grind of combat, the effects of injury, or being apart from family can cause people to be depressed. And depression can lead to drug use. Just like you, service men and women sometimes need help getting through those tough periods - using healthy ways to cope without turning to drugs.
The Real Warriors Program is aimed at wiping out the stigma associated with getting mental health care in the military. The campaign uses the stories of servicemembers who admitted they needed help and now are pursuing successful military careers. From October 23-31, the Defense Department will honor these real warriors during Red Ribbon Week, an event to raise public awareness about the negative effects of drugs on military personnel, civilians, and their families.
Now, more than ever, we need good role models. Whether you are serving in the military, working at a desk job, or going to school, don't hesitate to offer help to someone in need. When's the last time you asked someone, "Are you good to go?"
Do you have a personal story about the importance of role models and encouraging one another to overcome life's challenges? If so, please comment on this blog post - we'd love to hear your story! This is a guest post from Dr. John Ohab, host of the Defense Department's weekly science radio show, "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military."
Sometimes we make jokes about our mental health, but serious mental illness is a real problem among young people in this country. Did you know that an estimated 4.5 to 6.3 million youth in the United States face mental health challenges? These might be about substance abuse, depression, bipolar disorder, compulsive behavior, and other mental health issues, including suicide. Unfortunately, about two-thirds of them do NOT receive the mental health services they need (like counseling and medicine) because it costs too much or they don’t know where to find help.
We need to fix this problem. First of all, studies show that students who need and receive mental health services are more likely to stay in school. This is important because about 11% of high school youth with emotional challenges drop out before finishing high school and are 1.6 times more likely to be unemployed than high school graduates who are not enrolled in college. Secondly, mental health problems can affect many other areas of life–especially social relationships.
This is why SBB is writing about National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, being celebrated May 3. Communities all over the country will be holding events to show how important it is for kids to have good mental health, just like having good physical health. The many activities include programs using the theme “My Feelings are a Work of Art.” Think about that—so how would you draw the way you feel? It’s good to be aware of your feelings and how they affect your behavior and the decisions you make.
Find out how you can get involved and help by checking out http://www.samhsa.gov/children/preparing_for_awarenessday.asp.
As always, keep yourself healthy. If you or a friend are having a hard time coping with everyday life, ask an adult you trust for help. Catching problems early can avoid worse ones later on.
- Get some exercise. Community centers and health clubs may offer a special reduced price or free use of a gym for teens at holiday time.
- Don’t commit to too many parties, events, and get-togethers—everyone needs down time.
- Keep realistic expectations for getting along with family, and understand that it’s not going to be perfect. When things don’t go your way, ask yourself if it’s worth holding on to your anger or if you can just let it go and enjoy the moment.
- Chat with friends—talk on the phone, text, or de-stress on Facebook—and plan stuff to do.
- Volunteer at a community soup kitchen, food bank, or hospital.
- Start a drive to collect food and supplies for a homeless shelter.
- Visit a neighbor who may be elderly or impaired, or who may not have family around to help them celebrate.
- See about helping out families with young children who may need some relief to get dinner cooked or gifts wrapped.
- Start up a holiday dog-walking service for neighbors going out of town.
- Organize a gift exchange or a potluck supper with friends or family.
- Go caroling, then have the group to your house for hot chocolate.
- Make your own holiday baking gift packages—pre-packaged ingredients and recipe—to deliver to friends and family.
- Have a cookie baking contest or crazy cupcake competition.
- Go sledding, try ice skating, or build a snow fort.
- Have a sleepover or invite a friend over.
- Organize a dance-a-thon at your church, school, or rec center. See if the adults want to offer gift certificates or coupons for dance contest winners.
- Check to see if there’s a local First Night celebration. First Night is an organization that throws citywide New Year’s Eve activities.
- Start a tradition in your neighborhood with a flag football holiday bowl league.
Ever have one of those days? One minute you’re feeling great; the next, you’re knocked down by a bad grade or a fight with a friend.
Setbacks like these can seem like the end of the world to some teens. Others can bounce back after they’ve had a little time to think and see that the situation isn’t so bad. But not everyone can recover so easily.
As part of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, the National Institute of Mental Health hosted a panel discussion that focused on what happens when mental health disorders—like depression or anxiety—or drug abuse interfere with the development of the teen brain.
What’s Happening in Your Head?
No one feels good all the time. Teens are particularly vulnerable to a roller coaster of emotions because of major brain changes taking place between the ages of 12 and 25. These emotional ups and downs are all part of normal teen development.
But for teens suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD, the stresses—from peers, family, or problems in school—may be more than they can handle. Some maystart using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope, or to escape from anger, hurt, or disappointment. However, over time, these behaviors can lead to a bigger problem…addiction.
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
Every brain is different, and just because you feel down or stressed doesn’t mean you’re going to develop a problem. But, whatever you’re going through, it’s important to be aware of your feelings.
Take note if you’re overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or unfocused. You may just be experiencing the normal emotional reactions to events in your life. However, if these feelings don’t let up, or if you feel like you can’t bounce back on your own, talk to a friend, family member, or someone you trust to help you.
Watch a videocast of the whole discussion about mental health and the teen brain, then share your thoughts with us. What are some things you do to stay grounded when things seem out of control?