A co-occurring disorder refers to an individual with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder that occurs at the same time. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (1), roughly 50 percent of individuals with a severe mental health disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol.
Among individuals who abuse a substance, roughly 53 percent show signs of a mental health disorder, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness. By using integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders, a person learns tools and skills to avoid substance abuse and maintain emotional well-being.
What is Integrated Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2) says that integrated treatment addresses a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder simultaneously. It recognizes that an individual must address the symptoms of a mental health disorder to avoid drug abuse and that the addiction makes the symptoms of a disorder more severe.
According to the National Institutes of Health (3), an integrated treatment program that addresses both disorders simultaneously consistently improves a person’s ability to avoid drugs or alcohol in the future.
It teaches an individual the appropriate tools to handle any triggers that arise from a mental health disorder and the best ways to cope with different problems after completing the initial treatment plan.
Benefits of the Treatment Program
Treating an addiction requires the right combination of tools and treatment solutions. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (4), effective integrated treatment programs take a long-term approach to the recovery process and offer a compassionate environment that encourages a person to avoid substance abuse.
The advantages of an integrated program include:
- Treating an addiction and mental health disorder at the same time
- Engaging in treatment for both disorders with the same team of professionals
- Building a strong social support system during treatment
- Using multiple treatment options to address individual goals and concerns
- Flexible treatment solutions that adjust to each individual’s specific needs
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (5) explains that an integrated program begins in the screening and assessment of an individual. The assessment identifies the ways that substance abuse and a mental health disorder contribute to an individual’s specific situation.
By identifying the ways that the disorders interact, a treatment professional addresses the situation appropriately and improves the individual’s ability to function after treatment.
Moving Forward with a Healthy Lifestyle
Since integrated treatment addresses co-occurring disorders at the same time, it improves symptoms and the ability to function in a healthy way. The psychiatric symptoms associated with a mental health disorder worsen when drugs or alcohol are abused.
Treating substance abuse and addressing the mental health disorder allows a person to learn healthy coping strategies and better ways to manage the symptoms of a mental health disorder.
After completing an integrated treatment program, individuals gain the tools to limit the risk of relapse and develops a strong support system that helps when difficulties associated with a mental health disorder arise. The National Institutes of Health (3) report that integrated programs significantly increase success rates when signs of co-occurring disorders have been revealed.
Abusing drugs or alcohol raises concerns about a person’s health, particularly when a mental health disorder contributes to the addiction. Fortunately, integrated programs can help them learn valuable skills that prevent future substance abuse.
- Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, http://www2.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Hearts_and_Minds/Smoking_Cessation/Substance_Abuse_and_Co-occurring_Disorders.htm
- Integration, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, http://media.samhsa.gov/co-occurring/topics/healthcare-integration/index.aspx
- Thomas M. Kelly and Dennis C. Daley, Integrated Treatment for Substance Use and Psychiatric Disorders, The National Institutes of Health, August 26, 2013, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753025/
- Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders, The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, http://usich.gov/usich_resources/solutions/explore/integrated_treatment_for_co_occurring_disorders
- Screening and Assessment, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, http://media.samhsa.gov/co-occurring/topics/screening-and-assessment/index.aspx