According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 7.9 million Americans struggle with co-occurring disorders. The combination of drug addiction and a mental health disorder, co-occurring disorders often go untreated. While over a quarter of people with mental health disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, few are able to get appropriate treatment. The prevalence of co-occurring disorders in the United States and the associated dangers have recently made it a focal point of many studies.
A co-occurring disorder is the presence of substance abuse along with a mental health disorder. There may be a mood disorder such as bipolar, depression, or generalized anxiety. It may be a personality disorder such as borderline, narcissistic, or antisocial personality. It also can be a schizophrenia spectrum, eating, or neurodevelopmental disorder. Sometimes the person may show signs of the mental disorder first, while sometimes the drug abuse creates or exacerbates it. Often, the two co-occurring disorders cause a “snowball effect.” As the mental disorder arises and worsens, the person self-medicates with drugs or alcohol. When the person abuses substances, their mental disorder worsens. Thus begins the vicious cycle of co-occurring disorders.
People with severe mental disorders are four times more likely to be heavy alcohol drinkers, three and a half times more likely to use marijuana regularly, and over five times more likely to be daily tobacco smokers than those without. As the infographic shows, substance abuse is much more common in those that experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime than those who do not. The trend goes both ways; people with mental disorders are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and people who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to have an underlying mental disorder. Because of this increased risk, it is important that those with co-occurring disorders find quality dual-diagnosis treatment.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
When someone is facing multiple disorders, it is important that both are treated simultaneously. Without proper treatment of the mental disorder, relapse rates with drugs and alcohol are much higher. Without proper substance abuse treatment, the mental disorder is unlikely to be treated correctly. Dual diagnosis treatment centers work with the individual to treat both the mental disorder and the addiction. Common treatments found at a dual diagnosis rehab include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, medication management, providing psychoeducation, introducing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, and helping the individual to find a support network. Even with proper care, co-occurring disorders often require some form of maintenance such as continued therapy, support groups, and/or medication management.
Who is at Risk?
The risk factors for co-occurring disorders are similar to those of mental disorders and substance abuse in general. Risk factors include experiencing abuse or trauma, having a family history of mental disorders or drug addiction, and using drugs in teen years. Men attend dual-diagnosis treatment centers more often than women, which may suggest a higher occurrence among males.
If you or a loved one is struggling with co-occurring disorders, it is important to find reputable treatment. There are many doctors, psychologists, outpatient facilities, and inpatient rehabs that specialize in dual-diagnosis treatment. Here at Elevation Behavioral Health, we are licensed as both a mental health facility and a substance abuse facility, as we know how crucial the treatment process is in helping those with co-occurring disorders.