A Research Proposal on the Contribution of lack of proper treatment for mental illnesses to illegal drug use

  1. Introduction 

1.1 Statement of the Problem

Over the recent decades, there has been a growing trend towards increased global use of illicit drugs like marijuana and more specifically in the United States of America. According to the 2013 estimates by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2015), about 24.6 million people aged between 12 or older representing 9.4% of the total US population had used illegal drugs including heroin, marijuana and cocaine as shown in Figure 1 below. The increase represents about 8.3% increase in drug use from the previous year. 

Figure 1: Illegal drug use in US in 2013 (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). 

However, despite the growing use of illicit drugs among the youth and the old in the US, treatment gap for illicit drug use in the US still remain inefficient and disjointed as some researchers argue that there is limited association of mental health with illicit drug abuse. As observed by National Institute on Drug Abuse (2015) despite an estimated number of about 22.7 million US citizens which represents about 8.6% of the total population in the country being in need of illicit drug use treatment, only a mere 2.5 million individuals representing 0.9% of those affected were able to receive effective treatment for alcohol or illicit drug abuse/use. Such irony is despite the fact that social, mental and physical health is fundamental and interwoven strands of everyone’s life. 

As acknowledged by World Health Organisation (2003) even through mental health is regarded as the most vital component in the development of countries, communities and individuals by enabling individuals to effectively cope with stressful situations in life and work and effectively contribute to the general productivity of their communities, treatment of mental related illness are not accorded the concern it deserves by countries across the globe especially the US.  Consequently, lack of adequate and effective treatment of mental related illness has continued to lead to increase in illicit drug use as it remain the only place where mental illness patients receive solace. As supported by American Addiction Centre (2019) most individuals with illicit drug use disorders had mental illness including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorders. Nonetheless, despite the high number of those with variety of mental illness seeking treatment, there are only a limited number of treatment programs and centres designed to address the growing needs of mentally ill individuals. Further, while in nations such as United States have in place various programs designed to address mental illness among mentally ill individuals, majority of such programs are either inadequately equipped with necessary and latest programs that are capable of effectively managing severe mental illness among individuals. Lastly, the mental health programs in nations such as US though might be capable of treating chronic mental illness among mentally ill individuals; most of them are not adequately equipped to treat concurring disorders among mentally ill individuals. 

 1.2 Purpose of the study

This current study aims at investigating whether lack of proper treatment for mental illnesses contributes to illegal drug use. To effectively achieve the aim of this study, the following research hypothesis has been developed to guide the study. 

  • Early treatment of mental illness reduces chances of illicit drug use among mentally ill individuals.
  • Effective mental illness treatment does not lead to illicit drug use among mentally ill individuals.
  • Effective treatment of co-concurring mental illness reduces use of illicit drugs among mentally ill individuals. 

1.3 Significance of the study

Results from this research are significant in many ways. Firstly, even though the existing theoretical inquiry into mental health and illicit drug use are gratifying and critical, they cannot be utilized effectively in informing essential clinical questions with regards to treatment services delivery for substance abuse as they only indicate that mentally ill individuals who remain in treatment programs are less likely to engage in illicit drug use. Thus, this current research aims to conduct primary investigations to show how mental health treatment leads to reduction in illicit drug use and as a result help in motivating government of various nations such as US to devote much funding to such treatment of mental ill persons. Further, the findings of this study is going to be useful for mental health service providers by for instance showing and illustrating effective ways through which these service providers can employ to enhance their mental treatment services or programs in the face of limited financial and personnel budget allocated to them. Moreover, this current study is going to contribute to the existing research which has specifically focused on set of mental disorders like depression and anxiety by exploring vast categories of mental health illness other than anxiety and depression. 

Furthermore, as noted by Booth et al (2011) co-occurring psychiatric and medical disorders are majorly common phenomenon in the general population and clinical samples, resulting in poor outcomes and high healthcare costs. However, despite this, existing or past theoretical on the same have largely focused on the male and young generation and ignoring the general population including women and old generation. To this end, this current study aims to fill such theoretical gap by including all age groups and gender in the sample population including both female and older population. 

Finally, it has been observed that problems related to illicit drug use affects all sectors of the economy in terms of reduced productivity, increased health care costs and social disorders in the society. Thus, this current study will be important for employers, the society and the government in general by for instance helping the government in effective planning of its budget for mental health treatment and helping employers in designing mental health treatment programs to improve the productivity of their employees. 

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