Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

What is a Co Occurring Disorder?

A SAMHSA survey in 2014 showed that an average of 7.9 million people in the United States suffer from a co-occurring disorder. So, what is a co-occurring disorder, and how does it affect people? A co-occurring disorder, previously known as a dual diagnosis, is the coexistence of a mental health condition and a substance use disorder, or addiction. According to SAMHSA, those with mental health disorders are at a higher likelihood of abusing substances in an attempt to self-medicate than those without. However, that does not mean that if someone has a mental health disorder, they will turn to drugs or alcohol, nor does it mean that everyone who abuses substances has a mental health disorder.

More About Co Occurring Disorders

Abusing substances, such as alcohol or drugs, can lead to a worsening of a mental health disorder or disorders, despite the attempt at using these substance as a way to counter the symptoms from a mental health disorder. For example, someone who is struggling with depression may use a form of Amphetamine in an attempt to raise their energy levels, while someone who is experiencing a form of a panic disorder may be more likely to turn to Central Nervous-System depressants, such as alcohol, to help calm them.

While it may seem that using drugs or alcohol to counteract these symptoms is working for a while, it is in fact worsening the conditions and causing more problems.

It’s also been found that those with a genetic predisposition to mental health conditions can develop them after taking psychoactive substances, which can then lead in turn to them taking substances to counteract the symptoms, and creating a vicious cycle for themselves.

Diagnosing Co Occurring Disorders

Diagnosing co-occurring disorders can be difficult for those who are not trained in the mental health and addiction field. It often requires the person to go through detox before being able to be diagnosed properly as some substances can mimic the symptoms of mental health disorders. Once a person has gone through the detox process, they are in a better place to be accurately evaluated and diagnosed.

Treating Those with a Co Occurring Disorder

When treating those with a co-occurring disorder, it’s important to make sure that both their substance use disorder and mental health condition are treated. Having an underlying mental health condition can lead to continuing to abuse substances in an attempt to self-medicate and control the symptoms of their mental health condition. The most common method used today is called integrated treatment, and is an evidence based treatment practice that can greatly help those with a co-occurring disorder to take back control of their life from their substance use disorder, as well as help treat the symptoms of their mental health disorder.

Integrated treatment usually includes a medical detox, followed by an evaluation and a diagnosis, leading to a personalized treatment plan and personal, group or family therapy. It also includes an aftercare plan and services

Getting Help

If you suspect that you or someone you love may be suffering from a co-occurring disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out and find help. Co-occurring disorders can happen to anyone at any time, and are nothing to be ashamed about. There are treatment methods that can help and people who care. It’s never too late to reach out and get the help you deserve.

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