When people suffer from drug and alcohol abuse, the main focus of attention is on the actual use of substances by the addict. While this is an obvious point of concern and needs to be addressed in drug treatment, actual drug use is actually seen as a symptom of a deeper underlying issue in the addict. Unless the root causes of a person’s addiction are addressed and treated, the addict will never truly recover and is vulnerable to repeated relapse. Arguably the most common underlying cause of substance abuse in many addicts is a co-occurring disorder.

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

boy with co occuring disorder

Also known as dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders describe the presence of two or more disorders at the same time. For example, someone who has a co-occurring disorder may suffer from a substance abuse issues and have a mental disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder. What may be surprising to some people is the fact that co-occurring disorders are common in those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s not uncommon for people who are dealing with mental illness to abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their issues.

The following statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health outline just how common co-occurring disorders are in drug addiction:

  • Almost 9 million men and women who abuse drugs or alcohol have a mental health issue, also known as a co-occurring disorder or a Dual Diagnosis.
  • Out of all of the adults who go through addiction treatment, only about 7 percent are treated for both their substance abuse and their co-occurring disorder.
  • Over 55 percent of those who suffer from a co-occurring disorder get any help at all.
  • The rate of homelessness among people with co-occurring disorders is approximately 23 percent.

If you or a loved one is living with a co-occurring disorder, it makes it difficult to hold down a job, develop and nurture relationships, get an education, raise children and build financial well-being. For those who have mental disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), having the added stress of a substance abuse problem multiplies stigma and they can end up living in marginalized circumstances and away from the support systems and help they desperately need to get better.

The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders

The connection between addiction and co-occurring disorders can be complicated and difficult to trace. Anybody who has or are currently suffering from a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety knows how tempting it is to minimize these feelings by any and all means necessary. A common way this can be achieved is to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. While in theory it might seem like the fastest and effective way to get relief from mental illness, it leads to deeper troubles down the road.

There are several common factors that contribute to the development of substance abuse in those with co-occurring mental disorders. These factors include the following:

  • Heredity–An individual’s genetic makeup may predispose them to both substance abuse and a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
  • Brain development–If people use drugs or alcohol during their teenage years when the brain is still in the crucial stages of development, it may increase the chances of a co-occurring disorder later in life.
  • Stress or trauma–Experiencing traumatic life events such as the loss of a parent, divorce or physical or sexual abuse may make people more vulnerable to developing both addiction and mental illness issues.
  • Neurological factorsAddiction and mental illness may share common neurological bases. For example, low levels of the neurotransmitters that affect your emotional stability may lead to both mood disorders and substance abuse.

The symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse often overlap, and it can make it difficult for health professionals to gauge where one condition begins and the other ends. That is why it is extremely important that those with co-occurring disorders seek drug treatment programs that specialize in dual-diagnosis and feature individualized treatment plans that will best help them get on the road to recovery.

While there are a variety of co-occurring disorders that can take place, the most common mental disorders seen in those who abuse drugs and alcohol include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), PTSD, eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa and addition deficit disorder (ADD).

The Importance of Finding Appropriate Drug Treatment

friends supporting each other holding hands

For those who suffer from substance abuse and a co-occurring mental disorder, finding drug treatment that can adequately address both concerns is a top priority. As stated earlier in the article, if the underlying causes of addiction are not identified and treated, the chances of an addict making a full and long-lasting recovery are small. If you or a loved one is suffering from a dual diagnosis, you need to consider the following when looking for treatment:

  • Treatment programming needs to fully address your mental health issues and substance abuse. Therapy and treatment must be administered by staff who is both experienced and trained extensively in working with people with addiction issues AND mental health issues.
  • Rehab facility support the use of psychotherapeutic medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications in the treatment of co-occurring disorders.
  • Treatment programming must adopt a supportive approach to therapy that reinforces self-esteem and builds self-confidence instead of confronting the client with negative, aggressive statements.
  • An inclusive treatment strategy that brings partners, spouses, children and other household members into therapy for individual counseling, group meetings or education.

Ocean Breeze Recovery Center: Drug Treatment That Addresses All of Your Needs

Choosing the right treatment center can be difficult. Going through treatment is a substantial investment of time and money, so you need to find a rehab facility that has the programs and support you need to get and stay on the road to recovery. Ocean Breeze Recovery Center features a wide array of therapy delivered by experienced staff who can create an individualized treatment center for you and your needs. We also provide all clients a full continuum of care from your first days of treatment through our aftercare programs.

Pick up the phone today and call Ocean Breeze Recovery Center.

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