Addiction and Mental Health

Addiction and Mental Health

Co-occurring disorder, formerly dual diagnosis disorder, is a combination of substance abuse and a mental disorder.

According to an article published in Mail Online, the fusion of substance abuse and mental disorders is causing more deaths and illnesses internationally than HIV, TB and diabetes combined.

Referencing the 2010 Global Burden Disease Study, Mail Online reports depressive disorders account for 40 percent of deaths and disease internationally with a majority of the victims being women and young girls over 14 years of age.

To achieve the most favorable outcome of dual diagnosis treatment, it is vital that both disorders are treated concurrently in order to attain complete recovery.

Further noted by Mail Online; substance abuse and mental illnesses hold fifth place among causes of death throughout the 187 countries that participated in the study.

According to SAMHSA, roughly 8.9 million adults have co-occurring disorders, yet only 7.4 percent receive treatment for both the substance abuse and a mental disorder.  55.8 percent of those suffering from co-occurring disorders never receive treatment at all.The statistics are staggering to say the least.

A One, Two Punch

Although the title, dual diagnosis, implies a combination of two disorders, many people suffer from multiple disorders at the same time. Psychology Today states the most common instances of co-occurring disorders.

  • Major depression coupled with a cocaine addiction
  • Alcoholism combined with a panic disorder
  • Alcohol and polydrug addictions (the abuse of multiple drugs concurrently) fused with schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder joined with episodic polydrug abuse

The complexity of issues that may exist due to the combination of substance abuse and mental disorders depends, also, on the level of seriousness, chronicity, frailty and functionality of the person suffering from such maladies.

Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg?

When mental disorders are at the root of the issues, most often an attempt to temporarily relieve the symptoms of the disorder will lead to substance abuse. On the other hand, substance abuse often conjures up emotional and mental issues.

Both illnesses are affected by several elements; genetics, societal or environmental stressors, and pharmacological issues caused by drug use.

Treatment Tactics That Work

Co-occurring disorder is multifaceted and should be treated as such. Dual diagnosis treatment is the most successful plan of attack in dealing with co-occurring disorders. If the depression is treated yet the cocaine addiction is ignored or set aside, it will remain, as will a high risk of relapse caused by the depression. The same applies in reverse. Treating the addiction and ignoring the depression will not produce a high level of long-term recovery success.

Therefore, the US Department of Health and Human Services (SAMHSA) recommends dual diagnosis treatment of those struggling with substance abuse and mental disorders. Dealing with both issues at the same time, treating the whole person, provides the well-rounded support and treatment needed to reach a successful end; fostering hope and motivation to work toward a healthy outcome.

Dual diagnosis treatment provides other benefits as well.

  • Substance abuse is reduced or discontinued
  • Mental disorder symptoms diminish
  • Improved mental health
  • Fewer hospital visits
  • Improved quality of life


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