Approximately 8.9 million adults in the Unites States struggle with both a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Known as co-occurring disorder, this complex problem requires a specialized set of treatment modalities to effectively address both disorders at one time. The good news is that integrated treatment has been proven to work for many suffering with co-occurring disorders, reducing substance abuse and hospitalization, while improving quality of life overall.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Treatment for co-occurring disorders usually begins with the detoxification process to rid the body of the harmful substance. Once detox is completed, treatment for both the mental illness and the addiction can begin in earnest. Treatment will look slightly different for each patient, based on the specific mental illness to be treated and the severity and type of addiction. However, addressing both disorders through psychotherapy, medication and other treatment modalities will be necessary to achieve successful recovery and long-term sobriety.

What are Co-Occurring Disorders?

There are a number of mental illnesses that commonly occur with substance abuse disorders:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Behavior disorders

In some cases, the mental illness occurs first and the person turns to substances as a way to manage their symptoms. Known as “self-medicating,” this practice may seem to work at first, but ongoing substance use typically exacerbates symptoms of mental illness over time. In other cases, substance abuse may spur the onset of a mental illness, or bring to light an illness that had been lying dormant for some time.