Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Substance use disorders and mental health disorders seemingly go hand in hand. You may be dealing with a dual-diagnosis, and some mental disorders exacerbate a substance abuse disorder. It’s critical that any mental health issues are addressed by healthcare professionals in order to provide the most effective care. Thankfully, most models of recovery treatment can be tailored to meet a person’s individual needs, and the addition of mental health counseling can only be positive in the long-run.

Many substance users will characterize their use as “self-medication” because it is common for them to have been dealing with mental health issues since their teens or adolescence, and therefore likely started using substances as a way to self-medicate long before their mental disorders were diagnosed. While the method of self-medicating may seem feasible and easy to control at first, the individual’s mental health issues continue to remain untreated, and the drug use eventually tends to lose its luster. At that point, a longer, more complicated process of treatment may become necessary.

Common Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders are commonly linked to substance use disorders and may even be the catalyst that spurs the subsequent addiction. These disorders can be very serious and may go undiagnosed and potentially endanger a person’s life or have a long-lasting negative impact if evaluation and treatment are delayed.

  • ADHD: this disorder is most commonly linked to an addiction to stimulants, many of which are prescribed by a doctor.
  • Bipolar Disorder: it is estimated that half of the people with bipolar disorder have substance abuse disorders. Drugs and alcohol provide temporary relief from the manic episodes experienced by those diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: over two-thirds of the people diagnosed with BPD have substance use disorders.
  • Eating Disorders: drugs that suppress appetite are most common among this group. Also, the feelings of inferiority that come with eating disorders are another influence to “self-medicate.”
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: according to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, almost 75% of soldiers and veterans that have been diagnosed with PTSD report alcohol abuse issues; depression being a common disorder that many cite as their reason for drinking when dealing with PTSD.

Know the Triggers

There are a number of overlapping factors to consider when treating a dual-diagnosis, or co-occurrence of substance use disorders and mental health disorders. First, a person’s genetics can predispose them to develop both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder. In fact, studies suggest that genetics increases their likelihood of developing either disorder by 40-60%. In mental health and substance abuse, it is not nature or nurture, but nature and nurture. A person’s environment can cue triggers to both their mental disorder and their substance use. For instance, PTSD is a common disorder that uses the terminology of “triggers,” which can cause flashbacks. Many people use substances to treat their emotional responses to these triggers.

A person’s childhood can also be a factor in a dual-diagnosis of mental disorders and substance use disorders. A child who grows up in a household where substance use is common and viewed as normal are at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. Furthermore, those who experiment during adolescence and early teen years are more likely to develop an addiction. Many substance abuse related issues, like codependency, are developed due to childhood trauma.

Knowledge Is Power

Research suggests that both acute and prolonged use of drugs can affect a person’s brain responses. Some drugs can exacerbate an already existing mental disorder. For instance, in people with a genetic disposition of developing psychosis, marijuana increases the risk of them developing psychosis. Marijuana is often viewed as a less destructive drug and has become increasingly more socially acceptable. However, there are implications of serious side effects of marijuana use and mental health disorders.

Many patients who suffer from anxiety will report that marijuana tends to exacerbate that symptom. This could be due to the different sub-species, Indica and Sativa. These sub-species each provide a different effect; Sativa provides a “mind-high,” promoting creativity and a boost to one’s emotional state, while Indica provides a “body-high” and promotes intense relaxation. If a person with anxiety uses Sativa, this could exacerbate the anxiety. Drug education is very important in avoiding these kinds of reactions.

Diagnosing co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders may be difficult because the symptoms can often mimic each other — providing treatment can be equally as difficult. It is crucial to find a tailored treatment when dealing with co-occurring disorders. This is why many models include inpatient treatment. The high attention that an inpatient receives is beneficial in treating them in the most effective way. The best practice is to treat both disorders simultaneously. Treating them separately can prove tedious, and one disorder may take precedence over the other. Also, treating these issues together is the best way to prevent relapse due to the mental triggers.

Addiction treatment commonly incorporates mental health therapy, due to the likelihood of co-occurring disorders. According to recent research, 50%-75% of people diagnosed with mental health disorders are also diagnosed with substance use disorders. To adequately address these prevalent concerns, Avalon Malibu provides personalized care through a variety of treatment options to provide the best possible care for individuals recovering from co-occurring disorders. There is a stigma that comes with both addiction and mental health issues, but it has lessened over the years as more people better understand how these disorders affect the brain.

Many people may be undiagnosed when they enter treatment, and may be unaware of the commonality of dual-diagnosis, but our friendly and skilled team can help them better understand through various educational resources. To learn more about Avalon Malibu and how our customized programs can help you or a loved one, please call us today at (844) 857-5992.

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