The road to substance abuse and addiction may take a wide and varied path. Every person who struggles through this disease or disorder does so in a manner that is unique to them and derives from a variety of experiences, thoughts, patterns, and behaviors that may have impacted how they came to these problems, and perhaps even more importantly, the ways in which they should be treated.
Here at Turning Point, we understand that which is why we employ a highly trained and expert staff that is adept at offering client-centered care and can address a person in the entirety of their needs.
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What Is A Co-Occurring Disorder?
A co-occurring disorder is when a person concurrently struggles with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) report on findings from their 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), stating “approximately 7.9 million adults in the United States had co-occurring disorders in 2014.”
These dual diagnosis conditions are tightly linked in what is usually a vicious cycle when it comes to the manner in which substance use and abuse develop and it how it is further propagated. The National Alliance on Mental Illness gives us a glimpse of how prevalent this is, noting that “About a third of all people experiencing mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.” What is perhaps most frightening is that many times theses people abuse the very medications that were prescribed to help them.
How Do Co-Occurring Disorders Influence Substance Abuse And Addiction?
As we’ve noted above, mental health disorders and substance abuse and addiction play off of each other in a way that gives momentum to the individual disorders. Here are the ways in which they are connected:
- Mental health disorders may precipitate substance abuse and addiction:
SAMHSA cites more statistics from the 2014 NSDUH, telling us that roughly 43.6 million Americans that suffer from a mental illness. This equates to 18.1 percent or nearly one in five Americans aged 18 and up, and that 20.2 million, or 8.4 percent of the population suffered from a substance use disorder.
- Mental health disorders may aggravate existing substance use disorders:
For a person who already struggles with a substance use disorder (SUD), mental health disorders can be a huge stumbling block, as they create tension, heightened and out-of-control emotions, impaired judgement and diminished cognitive abilities, poor physical health and damage to your life, including a negative impact on your job, family or educational pursuits.
- Substance use disorders may actually cause mental health disorders:
A variety of substance—when abused or used in a capacity that warrants addiction—can actually lead a person to the development of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety. As these things develop, a person may use more drugs or alcohol to contend with the stress, imbalance, and uncertainty that they impart on a person’s life, so begins a horrendous cycle.
The National Institute on Drug Use presents some compelling information that may, in part, explain why substance use and addiction often occurs with mental health disorders for some people in a way that might not always be self-medication.
They noted that “Both drug use disorders and other mental illnesses are caused by overlapping factors such as underlying brain deficits, genetic vulnerabilities, and/or early exposure to stress or trauma.” Though a person may not always have these disorders start for the same reasons, we do know that some people need to take extra precaution as there are certain factors that may make them predisposed to developing one and/or both disorders.
Common Disorders That Co-Occur With Substance Abuse
Here are some examples of the most prevalent mental health disorders that are often seen as co-occurring disorders when met with addiction or substance abuse. Take note, others do exist beyond this list.
Depression – A study found through the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) asserts that “nearly one-third of patients with the major depressive disorder also have substance use disorders, and the comorbidity yields higher risk of suicide and greater social and personal impairment as well as other psychiatric conditions.”
Anxiety – According to SAMHSA, this is the most common mental health disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America cites a startling statistic, that people with anxiety “are two to three times more likely to have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives than the general population.
Borderline Personality Disorder – In SAMHSA’s publication, An Introduction to Co-Occurring Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorders, they cited the following research: “A large survey found that 50.7 percent of individuals with a lifetime diagnosis (i.e., meeting the criteria for a diagnosis at some point during the individual’s life) of BPD also had a diagnosis of a SUD over the previous 12 months.”
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – According to research presented by Medscape, “Epidemiological research has established high rates of comorbid PTSD and SUD. Among people with lifetime PTSD, lifetime SUD is estimated at 21-43%, compared with 8-25% in those without PTSD.”
Bipolar Disorder – The NCBI published an article that portrays the severity of this disorder set against substance use, stating that “rates of lifetime substance abuse were high for both alcohol (48.5%) and drugs (43.9%). Nearly 60% of the cohort had a history of some lifetime substance abuse.”
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – An article titled “Impact of ADHD and its treatment on substance abuse in adults” maintains that “ADHD is associated with different characteristics of substance abuse: substance abuse transitions more rapidly to dependence, and lasts longer in adults with ADHD than those without ADHD.” Current Psychiatry quantifies this statement with their statistics and review, “As many as 50% of adults with ADHD have substance abuse problems (including alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana), and as many as 30% have an antisocial personality disorder (with increased potential for drug-seeking behaviors).”
Like we’ve noted above, despite the fact that people that struggle with the aforementioned conditions may seek to find alleviation of symptoms through self-medication, the relief is temporary, as drugs and alcohol abuse most commonly aggravate these conditions, creating damage that can last for years.
Treating Co-Occurring Disorders
Treating co-occurring disorders takes a staff that is committed to and well-versed in dual diagnosis care. Without this, a person’s well-being and chances of success may fall to the wayside. At Turning Point, we enlist the most current and up-to-date research within our treatment consideration. This paired with a highly educated and compassionate staff lends itself to an environment and structure that is highly effective at treating co-occurring disorders.
In these situations, we realize that treating addiction on its own is counterproductive. We also realize that it can be very hard to open up and be honest about situations and disorders that might influence your life to such a drastic extent. For that reason, we spend ample time sitting down with each person when they come to us and employing an in-depth clinical assessment so that we may fully ascertain their history and paint a picture of their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Our comprehensive and multi-faceted approach includes medically managed detox, various therapeutic methods, group and individual-based therapy, medication-assisted therapy, aftercare programs, and relapse prevention. Our treatment goes beyond co-occurring mental health disorders and will also approach a person’s needs if they suffer from more than one addiction, trauma, co-dependency or behavioral issues that may influence either disorder or treatment.
Once we’ve identified any dual diagnosis concerns, we will begin to take steps to treat each disorder. We may yet use the aid of certain medications, depending on the scope and form of the problems. In addition to this, we will begin therapy so that you can learn to resolve any underlying issues, or negative and destructive thought patterns or behaviors that may perpetuate either your mental or substance use disorder.
Specifically, our staff at Turning Point specializes in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is foundational within both our outpatient and residential therapies. This approach is a fantastic tool for treating co-occurring disorders because as research suggests, it is not only proven to work in the realm of substance abuse but also within treatment protocol for mental health concerns.
DBT does share some characteristics with cognitive behavioral therapy, another therapy that may be beneficial in treating dual-diagnosis. This is the sense that it helps to teach and direct a person towards changing learned thoughts and behaviors that can be so detrimental to a person struggling with a co-occurring disorder. However, despite these similarities, DBT is unique in the way that it not only teaches a person to change but to embrace the acceptance that can be key in moving past damaging emotions, behaviors, and patterns that fuel both substance use and mental health disorders.
In addition to DBT, your addiction support team may utilize other treatments and approaches that they deem suitable for your unique needs.
How Treatment Of Co-Occurring Disorders Helps To Prevent Relapse
Turning Point is committed to not only helping a person to obtain sobriety but to maintaining it. We do this by after-care support that helps to keep a person on track and accountable while they move within their recovery.
Relapse prevention starts foremost during rehabilitation. Relapse is a valid concern, one that many people struggling with addiction will face. It is not something that can be ignored, rather a person needs to have a skill set ready so that they can nip the threat in the bud, or cope with the situation should they fall prey to it.
Having a co-occurring disorder can put you at greater risk for relapse—not only do you have the triggers and cravings to worry about that stem from your substance abuse but if left untreated, you would have the heavy-handed presence of the mental health disorder to cope with.
Successfully treating your co-occurring disorders significantly reduces these risks, as many of the ways that various mental health disorders manifest may become powerful triggers, to the point they incite a craving or desire to self-medicate. If you do find yourself encountering remnants of these things, you can utilize skills learned in our DBT program to help you overcome them. DBT can help you maximize your distress tolerance and increase your interpersonal skills so that you have a better support system and lower exposure to the people that may cause you to harm by tempting you.
Don’t Ignore Any Part of You That Needs Help, Seek Treatment Today
Here at Turning Point, we approach each person and their history with an open heart and open mind so that we may create a mindful and carefully crafted plan to treat their substance abuse or addiction. If you feel that you suffer from a co-occurring disorder and are concerned that it is getting in the way of overcoming your addiction, look no further. Our staff can help you in finding the care that you deserve. Please contact us today for more details.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine — Major depression and comorbid substance use disorders.
- SAMHSA — Home
- MD Edge — ADHD and substance abuse: 4 therapeutic options for patients with addictions