The Big Truth About Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders – also known as dual diagnoses – refer to patients who have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder and a mental health issue. This often complicates a treatment program, because of the complexities of treating each disorder, especially if the mental health disorder also requires medication.

So why are co-occurring disorders an important aspect of addiction? Because as the number of addicts with dual diagnoses continues to grow, it is important for patients to understand the challenges they will face in dealing with this issue.

Growing Number of Co-Occurring Disorders In the U.S.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly eight million adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with co-occurring disorders in 2014.

That was 40 percent of the 20 million adults who had a substance abuse problem, and 20 percent of the 35 million adults who had a mental illness. (1)

Co-occurring disorders were most prevalent among addicts ages 18 to 25 (29.3 percent), followed by addicts ages 26 to 49 (20.8 percent).

Some examples of co-occurring disorders include major depression with cocaine addiction, alcohol addiction with panic disorder, alcoholism and poly-drug abuse. (2)

It’s also important to understand that co-occurring disorders are diagnosed at different levels of severity. Therefore, a patient with a drug dependency may only have a mild form of anxiety, and vice versa, but there are also cases in which both disorders are severe.

That disparity in severity and the level to which the disorder impairs a person’s normal life function is one of the reasons co-occurring disorders present such challenges to caregivers.

Characteristics of People With Co-Occurring Disorders

People who suffer from co-occurring disorders are more vulnerable to suffering a setback in their drug or alcohol treatment, because of the burden of also dealing with a mental disorder.

And they are also more likely to suffer setbacks in their psychiatric treatment, because of the burden of dealing with their alcohol or drug problem.

In fact, studies have found that people with co-occurring disorders require longer drug and alcohol treatment, and are much more likely to experience major crises during that treatment.

Furthermore, patients in treatment facilities who have co-occurring disorders will take longer to respond to treatment and to regain some semblance of control over their lives.

And researchers have found that there is a link between mental disorders and alcohol and substance abuse, which could help explain why nearly half the adults who suffer from drug or alcohol problems also suffered from a mental disorder.

The Links Between Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse Problems

One of the links between mental health disorders and substance abuse problems is that they are both influenced by biological and environmental factors.

For example, some people have a genetic predisposition to mental health issues and substance abuse problems such as depression and alcoholism, because of family history.

In addition, illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, methamphetamines, PCP and steroids have been directly linked to mental health problems.

The reason is that these drugs have a negative effect on a person’s brain, and after prolonged drug use, they can trigger mental health disorders such as paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and other problems. (3)

Researchers have identified heroin as one of the most potent drugs linked to mental health issues.

A synthetic of morphine, heroin’s effects include:

  • Insomnia
  • Itching
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Sedation

And because heroin produces such intense feelings of euphoria, it also creates a profound sense of loss in addicts after the drug’s effects wear off.

And the more that heroin users seek that sense of euphoria, the more difficult it is for them to deal with the ‘down’ of coming off the drug, which can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Why Diagnosis and Treatment Is So Important

The danger of co-occurring disorders is that if they are not properly diagnosed, people who suffer from these problems will find it very difficult to gain control over their diseases because they will lack the proper counseling and medication to attack the root causes.

That’s why many experts recommend what is known as an integrated treatment approach, which means treating substance abuse and mental health issues at the same time, instead of trying to deal with each problem separately.

By implementing this method, doctors and behavioral counselors can coordinate their treatment methods, and work together to find a solution.

Moreover, integrated treatment allows patients to understand that they are suffering from two distinct disorders, which can help them become an integral part of a recovery program.

These treatment plans will often include cognitive behavioral therapy to identify the root causes of mental health issues and addiction behavior, relapse prevention methods, and prescription medication to aid with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.

Finding the Right Treatment Facility

It’s become almost a cliché, but the truth is that patients with drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and mental health disorders cannot recover properly without long-term treatment.

That’s why finding the right treatment facility is so vital to the success addicts have in managing their lives.

The counselors at Serenity at Summit have years of experience helping addicts through recovery programs. We treat co-occurring disorders with an integrated approach that coordinates all aspects of a patient’s care. Please call us today at (908) 481-4400 (New Jersey) and (978) 641-3001 (Massachusetts) to learn all your treatment options.

Serenity At Summit Detox New Jersey– (908) 481-4400

Serenity At Summit Detox Haverhill MA–  (978) 641-3001