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Drug Addiction and Multiple Personality Disorder

Drug addiction and Multiple Personality Disorder often occur together. MPD, also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID, is a severe psychiatric condition where a number of distinct personalities are found in the same individual. Some of these identities may be aware of each other and some not – researchers are still unsure exactly how the condition operates. But what is known is that the symptoms are significant enough that many sufferers turn to drugs or alcohol in order to self-medicate or escape from their problems. And because MPD generally develops to cope with trauma, the occurrence of both of these coping mechanisms can complicate efforts to treat either.

According to WebMD; “. . . dissociative identity disorder is a severe form of dissociation, a mental process, which produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. Dissociative identity disorder is thought to stem from trauma experienced by the person with the disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism — the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience that’s too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with his conscious self.” (1) However, these symptoms rarely present in the way that Hollywood tends to portray sufferers of multiple personality disorder. In fact, the condition manifests itself quite differently from one patient to another, but the common theme is one of dissociation.

This theme of dissociation is one that is also found among addicts and alcoholics, who use substances as a means of dissociating from pain, stress, boredom, relationships, careers, etc. In this regard both MPD and addiction are formed in response to some type of stress or trauma – in the case of the former multiple personalities are formed to cope with these stresses, and in the case of the latter drugs are used as a coping mechanism. Therefore, it’s not surprising that addiction and DID often co-occur in the same individual – and sometimes other conditions may be present as well.

The Sidran Institute for Traumatic Stress Education and Advocacy reported that: “Current research shows that DID may affect 1% of the general population and as many as 5-20% of people in psychiatric hospitals. The rates are even higher among sexual-abuse survivors and addicts. These statistics put Dissociative Disorders in the same category as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, as one of the four major mental health problems today.” (2)

Based on a 2011 US Census estimate, there are now approximately 310 million people in America. If the Sidran Institute’s estimates are correct, this means that more than 3 million people in this country live with multiple personality disorder. Furthermore, according to Drug War Facts.ORG, there were more than 119 million “lifetime” drug users in the US in 2009. (3) While data indicating the exact occurrence of drug use and MPD isn’t available, if we estimate that a mere 10% of DID sufferers also have drug problems, then it’s possible that more than a quarter of a million people are afflicted by both conditions in the US alone.

Fortunately, addiction and dissociative disorders can be treated concurrently; often with much success. This is usually accomplished by treating the most severe problem – drug addiction – by helping the sufferer to detox and attend an inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or other program. Therapies utilized by these programs will include individual therapy that will work to treat both addiction and MPD concurrently but independently.

In order to learn how we can help you or someone you love with both of these problems and potentially save a life, call the number at the top of your screen right now for a confidential consultation.

(1) WebMD Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)
(2) Sidran Institute What is a Dissociative Disorder?
(3) DrugWarFacts.ORG Drug Use Estimates

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More