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What Does “Co-Occurring Disorders” Mean?

Addiction is far more than a physical dependency on a drug. It is as much a mental health issue as a physical one, but many people struggling with addiction suffer from additional, related problems as well as their substance abuse. About 43 million Americans (roughly one-sixth of the U.S. population) suffer from some type of mental health disorder, and about 10 million of these cases are severe. Some 14 million of these individuals use illicit drugs, and approximately 8 million have a mental health issue and a substance abuse disorder at the same time.

Co-Occurring Disorders Definition 

“Co-occurring disorders,” often referred to as “dual diagnosis” cases, are some of the most difficult substance abuse cases to treat. Co-occurring disorders in addiction treatment typically involve a mental health disorder that runs in tandem with a substance abuse disorder. This can include naturally occurring mental health issues as well as acquired conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some of the most common mental health disorders identified in dual-diagnosis cases include PTSD, panic disorders, eating disorders, depression, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoia, and schizophrenia.

The team at Harmony Place wants our potential clients and readers to know the dangers of dual diagnosis and what to expect from the rehabilitation experience for dual diagnosis. Early detection and comprehensive treatment are essential for co-occurring disorders, and effectively treating patients in these situations requires addressing their addiction and mental health treatment at the same time.

The Link Between Mental Health And Addiction

The biggest problem facing physicians who treat dual-diagnosis cases is breaking the symbiotic cycle that arises from mental health disorders and addiction. Personality disorders and addiction form dangerous interactions in which one continually worsens the other. Dual-diagnosis cases are dangerous because the individual will often start self-medicating with his or her drug of choice to combat the symptoms of the mental health disorder. Eventually, this creates a dangerous predicament requiring extensive medical intervention and comprehensive rehabilitation.

Genetic Links 

There are also strong genetic ties to both addiction and mental health disorders. Many mental health and behavioral disorders, such as depression and anxiety have genetic markers that can pass from parent to child, making the child predisposed to developing these mental health disorders later in life. A parent with a genetic predisposition toward addiction will also pass this trait on to children, making the child more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol later in life. People who develop mental health disorders early in life are also more prone to this type of experimentation.

Substance Abuse as Coping Mechanisms 

Many dual-diagnosis cases involve individuals with little to no genetic predisposition toward mental health disorders yet develop them later in life. This is very common among individuals who experience severe trauma and develop PTSD. Treating PTSD is very difficult, and individuals suffering from the condition will sometimes use drugs or alcohol to manage their symptoms. This creates a dangerous interaction between mental health and substance abuse requiring a specialized treatment plan.

Addiction carries many negative social stigmas, so a person who declines into substance abuse may develop psychological issues as a result of the isolation and dehumanization common in people struggling with substance abuse. As an individual’s substance abuse problem progresses, he or she may develop depression, social anxiety, sleep disorders, or other mental health problems. The person will then be very likely to turn to his or drug of choice for relief. Unfortunately, the relief is very temporary, urging them to seek another dose for further respite. This type of interaction can quickly escalate a substance abuse problem to life-threatening levels.

How Does This Cycle Appear? 

Different drugs produce different results in the human body, but addictive drugs such as opioids, alcohol, and stimulants interfere with the body’s natural neurotransmitter levels. A dose of opioids causes the user’s system to flush with dopamine, the neurotransmitter that creates feelings of pleasure and reward. Eventually, the user will only feel this sensation after consuming a dose of his or her drug of choice. This interaction has diminishing returns, so subsequent doses will produce less profound effects and encourage the user to take larger doses to achieve the desired sensation.

The Importance Of Early Intervention 

Spotting the warning signs of an addiction or a worsening mental health disorder is often the first step in treating dual-diagnosis cases. It’s also important for people struggling with addiction to remember that not every rehabilitation facility has the resources to treat dual-diagnosis patients. Co-occurring disorders training centers provide educational programs for substance abuse professionals so they have the tools to treat dual-diagnosis patients.

The staff at Harmony Place has undergone extensive co-occurring disorders training to better serve our patients struggling with both addiction and mental health problems. Our full range of therapies and services includes individualized treatment plans specific to every patient, so we can provide the most effective treatment possible. Keep this in mind if you or a loved one is in need of treatment for a co-occurring disorder.

Treating Dual Diagnosis

It’s impossible to effectively treat a person struggling with a co-occurring disorder unless those providing treatments address the mental health disorder and the addiction at the same time. The best rehabilitation programs include a wide range of counseling options and therapies aimed at addressing the physical symptoms of addiction and withdrawal while helping patients cope with the psychological and social effects of addiction.

The first step in treating a dual-diagnosis patient is determining the extent of the substance abuse and the mental health disorder. In some cases, medications can provide relief from a mental health issue so the individual receives a more beneficial experience from rehab. Some patients will require extensive medically assisted detoxification before any counseling or treatment is even possible, and this is a delicate process for patients with co-occurring disorders.

Physicians who treat dual-diagnosis patients typically begin with detox and a full review of the patient’s mental health history, medical records, and family history to determine triggers, stressors, and other facets of the patient’s situation. This initial review is crucial and will help the staff providing treatment to create the most effective care plan possible. Beyond detox, recovery from a co-occurring disorder typically involves medication to manage the symptoms of the mental health issue and counseling to overcome substance abuse.

Triggers And Behavioral Patterns 

Addiction is deeply rooted in behavior, and when an individual treats a mental health issue with substance abuse, dangerous patterns of behavior can appear. During treatment for a co-occurring disorder, a patient will slowly learn how to identify and manage environmental stressors or triggers that influence their behavior. For example, a person struggling with PTSD may be sensitive to social situations or suffer from flashbacks or nightmares. During therapy, these patients may receive medications to ward off these negative symptoms so they can focus more clearly on recovery.

Long-Term Treatment

Recovery is not as simple as undergoing detoxification and completing rehabilitation. Successful recovery from a substance abuse problem and a co-occurring disorder will demand daily attention and constant maintenance. The long-term treatment options for a dual-diagnosis case will depend on the individual. Some people will require medications and counseling for years after completing rehab while others may find relief much sooner. There is no one solution for co-occurring disorders. The only effective method for helping patients in these situations is developing an individualized treatment plan specific to the patient and carefully maintaining healthy behaviors after completing rehab.

Finding The Right Path To Recovery 

Anyone struggling with a co-occurring disorder needs assurance that a rehab facility offers the training and resources necessary to provide effective treatment. Rehabilitation is much more than just detox and counseling. Harmony Place provides a comprehensive range of therapies and counseling options to address even the most complex substance abuse cases, including dual diagnosis.

Effective co-occurring disorder treatment hinges on the training of the staff providing the treatment, and the team at Harmony Place has completed extensive educational courses and training programs. We are equipped to handle even the most difficult dual-diagnosis cases with comprehensive, individualized treatment plans and a variety of therapeutic methodologies including massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy.

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