Co-occurring Disorders

Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders is when a person has a substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorder.

SUD sufferers are twice as likely to acquire a mental health issue simultaneously as they have a SUD. Co-occurring disorders include anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, bipolar, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. However, it's not always the case that a mental illness and a drug abuse condition are linked.

People with mental health problems are more likely to have a substance abuse issue than the general public. There are 9.2 million Americans who have a co-occurring mental health condition, according to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

It's critical to point out that combining MAT medications with anti-anxiety medications might have serious adverse effects. These can include prescription benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, which are prevalent, among many others.


Having co-occurring conditions may cause problems such as:

  • Addiction to alcohol or other drugs to deal with mental health issues
  • A deterioration of one's mental health as a consequence of substance usage.
  • A drug use problem has worsened due to underlying mental health difficulties.
  • Treatment for both illnesses is difficult or impossible to receive or benefit from.
  • Finding specialists or peers who can assist and understand both conditions might be difficult.


Is There a Root Cause for Co-Occurring Disorders?

Drug misuse and some mental health issues often share a genetic risk factor. However, genes don't usually account for all causes of co-occurring conditions. Family, environment, and life stressors like traumatic life events, poverty, and loss all have a role in developing depression, for example.


Stressful situations may also activate genetic markers that contribute to co-occurring disorders. For those who have mental health issues, mood-altering drugs may have a more significant impact on them. Those with mental health concerns or social anxiety may use alcohol or other drugs to cope. As a result, those with mental health issues are more likely to acquire a substance abuse problem, and those with an addiction are more likely to develop a mental health condition.


Addiction to drugs and alcohol may be a symptom of a person's mental illness. According to research, people who suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may turn to drugs or alcohol. Some medicines may help reduce some symptoms of mental illness for a short period, but they may worsen the symptoms.


People with mental health issues may have brain changes that enhance the enjoyable effects of drugs and make them more likely to continue using them. Addictions to drugs and alcohol may set the stage for many mental health issues. Drug usage may alter the structure and function of the brain, increasing the likelihood of developing a mental illness.


This makes it difficult to differentiate between mental illnesses and addictions because of their comparable symptoms. People's mental health should be evaluated when they have not taken drugs and are not taking any prescribed medications to prevent misunderstanding.

If You Find Yourself In A Hole,
The First Thing To Do Is Stop Digging.

General Signs of Mental Health Issues

Even though the symptoms of different mental health disorders might differ, there are specific similar markers that a person may have a mental illness:


  • The sleep and eating habits of a person are altered.
  • Suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.
  • Letting go of things that once meant a lot to you may be challenging.
  • The sudden and unexplained onset of bodily discomfort.
  • Emotional highs and lows are substantial.
  • Behaviors such as drug abuse and promiscuity may be harmful.
  • Frequent fear happens for no apparent cause.
  • Delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia are mental health issues that may be debilitating.
  • The ability to focus and think is problematic.
  • It is not a priority to maintain good personal hygiene.
  • Process-related behavioral or psychological changes that a person fails to detect.
  • Increased apprehension.
  • More or less arousal.


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Benefits of Integrated Treatment

Those with co-occurring illnesses may benefit from integrated treatment and early detection, improving their results and quality of life. Some of these benefits include the following:


  • Cut down on or stop using drugs.
  • Housing security has been upgraded.
  • If mental symptoms and functioning improve, there is a greater chance of successful treatment and recovery for both disorders.
  • Hospitalizations have decreased.
  • I am lengthening the average lifespan.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends an integrated treatment plan to treat co-occurring disorders. Instead of treating each condition separately without respect, integrated therapy combines substance usage and mental health treatments.


Types of Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

CBT and DBT are standard behavioral therapies in integrated care because they may help patients cope better and reduce harmful behaviors. These may be used with prescription medication. Therapists and organizations that help with housing, health, and job issues may work together as part of a treatment plan.


Psychoeducational sessions may help patients better comprehend the symptoms of mental illness and the relationship between mental illness and drug abuse. Patients who get relapse prevention education may be better equipped to recognize the warning signs of substance abuse and devise new strategies for dealing with the urge to relapse.


Additionally, dual-recovery groups on treatment sites or elsewhere may aid recovery by offering a safe place to address mental symptoms, medications, substance-related desires, and coping strategies.


Co-occurring disorder therapy generally includes the use of psychotherapeutic medicines of many kinds. People who suffer from mental illnesses tend to withdraw from social situations, which may be exacerbated if they are also abusing drugs or alcohol. Peer support groups and 12-step programs can help you understand that you're not alone in searching for healthy, secure existence.


Psychiatry is increasingly aware of complementary and alternative treatments for alcoholism and drug addiction. Many rehabilitation facilities provide equine-assisted therapy, hypnosis, massage, acupuncture, yoga, and treatment for co-occurring illnesses. Several facilities offer a secure and semi-structured environment for those in transitional housing to reduce the risk of relapse.


Wish Recovery is one of California's premier luxury dual diagnosis treatment centers and provides specialized therapy for those with co-occurring disorders. Treatment for dual diagnosis at our facility is based on evidence-based and holistic healing techniques to provide the best outcomes. Please speak with one of our addiction experts today.

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