When someone has a chemical addiction and a mental illness at the same time, it is considered a co-occurring disorder. Also referred to as a dual diagnosis, this condition is relatively common. In 2014, around 7.9 million adults in the U.S. had a co-occurring disorder, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that as many as sixty percent of people with a substance abuse disorder also have a mental illness.
Co-occurring disorders are more complicated to treat than an addiction or mental illness alone. Many factors can make the treatment process more challenging, including the management of medications for a mental illness and the risk of relapse if both conditions are not properly addressed simultaneously. The staff at New Vista Behavioral Health are experienced in diagnosing, managing and treating all types of co-occurring disorders through both residential and intensive outpatient services that can be customized to the individual client.
The Link between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
The connection between substance use disorders and mental illness is complex. In some cases, the mental illness comes first, and the individual turns to drugs or alcohol as a means of dealing with the symptoms of their condition. Unfortunately, while it might seem that alcohol will take the edge off anxiety or stimulants will energize a person with depression, the substance creates more of a problem than a solution. In some cases, the effects of the substance can worsen the mental illness. Others might find they need more of the substance to get the same effect over time, which is a sign that addiction is developing.
Some people battling addiction may also start to see the symptoms of a mental illness develop because of their substance abuse. Drugs can lead to the onset of mental illness or worsen a condition that has been effectively managed in the past. As the mental disorder becomes more severe, the person may take more substances to attempt to reduce symptoms, causing a vicious cycle that becomes that much more difficult to overcome.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders
While nearly any mental illness can accompany substance addiction, there are a few disorders that are frequently seen in a co-occurring disorder:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Conduct disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Both alcohol and drug addiction may be a part of a co-occurring disorder. Drugs typically seen in this situation are marijuana, stimulants, tranquilizers and hallucinogenic substances. Prescription drugs can also be addictive for individuals that take them without a prescription and for non-medical reasons.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
The best approach to treating co-occurring disorders is to treat the conditions concurrently. Some people may require residential treatment to get sufficient care, while others may do well in the right outpatient program. The key to success is a customized plan that addresses both disorders simultaneously, giving the client the healthiest start into recovery and the greatest odds of long-term sobriety.
Our treatment centers have helped dozens of clients overcome co-occurring disorders to discover life in recovery that is productive, healthy and happy. To find out more about our treatment programs, contact New Vista Behavioral Health today at 888-316-3665.