Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease which can take years to develop and is the result of many factors. While we place our primary focus on the actual use of drugs and alcohol and the consequences that result, the use of substances is often a symptom of a deeper issue. Unless these deeper issues are addressed in treatment, those who are addicted will continue to struggle with substance abuse–and it can grow worse. One of the most common underlying roots of drug addiction is the presence of a co-occurring mental disorder. This blog post will explore what co-occurring disorders are, how common they are in addiction, and what treatment options are available.

What are Co-Occurring Disorders?

depressed young man struggling with drug addiction

Also known as dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders describe the presence of two or more disorders at the same time. In the case of drug and alcohol addiction, a person may suffer from an underlying mental disorder in addition to their substance abuse. The most common types of mental disorders seen tied with addiction include depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there can be also certain mental illnesses that can be seen specifically with the abuse of certain drugs.

For example, alcoholics can suffer from mental conditions such as mania, dementia, schizophrenia and anti-social behaviors. For those who struggle with an addiction to cocaine, they are often struggling with a variety of social anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and other forms of social phobias. Additionally, those who are addicted to heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opiates are often battling depression or PTSD. No matter what drug is being abused, chances are there is an underlying (and often undiagnosed) mental disorder that lies at the root of the addiction.

Are you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse? Is it possible there may be a mental illness at its’ root? Call Ocean Breeze Recovery Center today.

How Common Are Co-Occurring Disorders in Those Who Struggle With Substance Abuse?

The prevalence of a co-occurring mental disorder in those people who struggle with substance abuse is common. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

About a third of all people experiencing mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse. These statistics are mirrored in the substance abuse community, where about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers report experiencing a mental illness…

Men are more likely to develop a co-occurring disorder than women. Other people who have a particularly high risk of dual diagnosis include individuals of lower socioeconomic status, military veterans and people with more general medical illnesses.

Additionally, statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) point out that about 8.9 million adults have co-occurring disorders, but only 7.4 percent of individuals receive treatment for both conditions with 55.8 percent receiving no treatment at all. 

 Reason Why Co-Occurring Disorders Are So Prevalent In Addiction

While the exact reasons why mental disorders and addiction tie together are not known, there are several factors that may play a role in that connection. According to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research indicates that children and adolescents with existing psychiatric conditions—including conduct disorders, ADHD, and learning disabilities—are at higher risk of abusing drugs than other youth. There is also evidence that drug abuse early in life may increase the risk of mental disorders or accelerate their development.

In an article that appeared in Everyday Health, research also pointed towards three other factors that can contribute to the simultaneous occurrence of addiction and mental illness:

  • Genetics. Genetic factors seem to account for some of the connection between substance abuse and mental disorders. Studies comparing identical and fraternal twins found more instances of having two disorders among the identical twins, indicating that genetics likely play some role.
  • Chemical deficiency. Neurochemical factors were also found to be a common thread when mental disorders and addiction occur together. A reduction in the amount of serotonin, a chemical critical to brain functioning, may be the reason that alcoholism and anxiety disorders coincide so often.
  • Shared environment. Studies surrounding twins also showed that environment plays a major role in having both a substance abuse problem and another mental disorder.

The Importance of Treatment

group therapy for drug abuse

While finding quality drug treatment has become easier, finding treatment options that also address co-occurring disorders can be more challenging. Traditionally, addiction and mental disorders had been treated separately–and that approach was not effective in helping to fully break the cycle of addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety, it is important that you find a reputable drug treatment facility that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment.

It is important that the facility is staffed by counselors and support staff who have training, credentials and experience in integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders. Counseling sessions and group meetings should be adaptable for the symptoms of mental illness. Most importantly, an individually tailored treatment plan approach should be employed, as it addresses the needs of each client rather than applying a cookie-cutter approach to recovery.

These components should include the following:

  • A careful, thorough evaluation of one’s substance use history and  psychiatric health
  • Individual psychotherapy that addresses the relationship between the mental health disorder the use of substances
  • Group therapy with other rehab clients who are facing the challenges of Dual Diagnosis
  • Pharmacological therapy to treat the symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses
  • Education and counseling for spouses, partners and children to create a healthy home environment
  • Holistic therapies like acupuncture, massage, yoga or Reiki to support internal balance
  • Aftercare programs that continue to provide support after you’ve graduated from rehabilitation

Are You or a Loved One in Need of Treatment?

In order to effectively break the cycle of addiction, finding a drug treatment facility that employs a wide range of proven and effective treatment options that are delivered by experienced and compassionate staff is paramount. Ocean Breeze Recovery Center should be your first and only call. We employ a wide array of traditional and holistic-based treatment options that address the addict’s needs in mind, body and spirit. We are able to create an individual treatment plan that is right for you and will give you the best chance at long-term recovery.

Contact us today.

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