Although substance abuse may seem to be a standalone disorder, it often accompanies another mental illness. Almost 8 million adults a year struggle with co-occurring disorders, increasing the need for more comprehensive treatment plans. Decades ago, sequential treatment (treating each disorder at different points) was the norm. However, high rates of relapse proved therapists needed a different approach. Northeast Addictions Treatment Center (NEATC) recognizes the seriousness of dual diagnosis, and provides an integrated plan to address addiction treatment with other mental health conditions simultaneously.
It’s sometimes difficult to recognize the distinction between addiction and mental illness. Although many of the symptoms mimic each other, the following may indicate the presence of co-occurring disorders:
It may be more difficult to diagnose co-occurring disorders in teenagers, since mood swings are typical during the adolescent years. In addition to the aforementioned symptoms, watch for the following:
Co-occurring disorders can develop in any combination, and under a variety of circumstances. A person suffering from depression or chronic insomnia may take cocaine to boost lagging energy, or someone may drink excessively to combat PTSD. Genetic predisposition, trauma, prescriptions, and peer pressure can contribute to self-medicating, or turning to drugs or alcohol, without being aware of another existing condition. One common factor though, is that the underlying mental health issue has interfered with life, affecting personal and professional relationships, and impacting health, safety, and perhaps even the ability to maintain housing.
Just as there is no singular representation of co-occurring disorders, there is also no uniform, one-size-fits-all treatment plan. It is a series of counseling, educational programs, and strategies individually tailored for each specific disorder. Depending upon the severity of the addiction and underlying illnesses, options may include:
In addition to diagnosing patients who have a support system of friends and family, it’s important to recognize the prevalence of co-occurring disorders in underrepresented groups. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that co-morbidity affects almost 50% of the incarcerated population.
Not every incident of alcohol or drug abuse involves another disorder, nor does every patient with borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or other illness have an addiction. But if an addict is presumed to only have one illness without further assessment, it may fail to create a successful rehabilitation.
Dual diagnosis and ensuing integrated plans, relapse prevention strategies, and supportive aftercare are also extremely necessary for anyone who stands to lose their employment or housing due to substance abuse. The overlapping of mental illnesses and addictions can undermine employment and financial stability, which can produce a cycle of homelessness.
Whether mental or emotional illness surfaced before or after substance abuse, NEATC’s focus in dual diagnosis means that we have the staff, programs, and counseling necessary to effectively treat co-occurring disorders.
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