It’s not uncommon for someone struggling with a substance use disorder to also have at least one co-occurring mental health condition.
The term “co-occurring disorders” may not be familiar to you, but it simply refers to substance abuse or dependence and a mental disorder occurring together. It might also be referred to as a dual diagnosis. Anywhere from 20-50% of clients in mental health settings have a co-occurring substance use issue, according to research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and other studies suggest that up to 90% of those with a substance abuse disorder also have at least one co-occurring mental health disorder, whether diagnosed or not.
Are you concerned that you or a loved one may need dual diagnosis treatment? Read on to find out more about co-occurring disorders and determine if The Meadows Malibu is the right option for your situation.
A New Approach
In the early days of addiction treatment, substance abuse was often seen as secondary to a mental health disorder and not addressed until mental health treatment was completed. The conditions were viewed as completely separate from one another. By the late 1970s practitioners began to recognize that the presence of substance abuse in combination with mental disorders had a profound impact on treatment success, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Quick Guide for Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons With Co-Occurring Disorders. The realization led treatment professionals to pursue an understanding of how these disorders interact with one another and to find ways to treat them together.
Mental Illness by the Numbers
Even just the term “mental illness” is stigmatizing to many, causing individuals to be reluctant to seek treatment or even discuss mental health disorders. But issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among the U.S. population, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):
- 18.9% of adults 18-25 reported having a mental illness in 2017
- 17.8% of adults 26-64 reported having a mental illness in 2017
- 11.0% of adults 65 or older reported having a mental illness in 2017
- 14.3% of adults reported a mental illness in 2017 that was not serious
- It is estimated that 30-60% of patients seeking treatment for alcohol misuse meet the criteria for PTSD
Who is at Risk for Co-Occurring Disorder?
While substance abuse and mental health issues can often go hand in hand, one disorder doesn’t automatically cause the other. However, research suggests three possibilities for this common co-occurrence, according to drugabuse.gov:
Common Risk Factors
Research suggests there are many genetic common risk factors that can contribute to the risk of developing both mental illness and substance use disorders. For example, some people have a specific gene that can make them at increased risk of mental illness as an adult if they frequently used marijuana as a child. A gene can also influence how a person responds to a drug – whether or not using the drug makes them feel good. Environmental factors, including stress or trauma, can cause genetic changes that are passed down through generations and may contribute to the development of mental illnesses or a substance use disorder.
A variety of mental health conditions have been identified as risk factors for developing a substance use disorder. For example, some research suggests that people with mental illness may use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. Although some drugs may help with mental illness symptoms, sometimes this can also make the symptoms worse. Additionally, when a person develops a mental illness, brain changes may enhance the rewarding effects of substances, predisposing the person to continue using the substance.
Addiction or substance misuse can definitely contribute to the development of mental illness because substance use may change the brain in ways that make a person more likely to develop a mental illness.
Co-Occurring Diagnosis & Treatment
A dual diagnosis calls for a comprehensive approach that identifies and evaluates both the addiction and the mental health condition. Anyone seeking help for either substance use, misuse, or addiction or another mental disorder should be evaluated for both and treated accordingly.
Several behavioral therapies have shown promise for treating comorbid conditions. These approaches can be tailored to patients according to age, the specific drug misused, and other factors. They can be used alone or in combinations with medications. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), some effective behavioral therapies for treating comorbid conditions include:
– Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps to change harmful beliefs and behaviors.
– Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was designed specifically to reduce self-harm behaviors including suicide attempts, thoughts, or urges; cutting; and drug use.
Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior.
We’re Ready to Help
Is it time to take that next step? Our Admissions team is here to help 24 hours a day and will treat you with compassion, dignity, and respect. The Meadows’ Admissions Specialists are here to help you on your way to the healthier, more fulfilling life you imagine. If you are interested in The Meadows Malibu for yourself or a loved one, call or fill out a contact form today!