While addiction can be an expensive and life-shattering problem, it is not the worst case scenario. Addiction is just the beginning. Substance abuse can ignite more mental health problems. Likewise, a person suffering from mental health disorders are also likely to suffer from substance use disorder. Either way, the addiction plus mental challenge condition is called co-occurring disorders.
Formerly known as dual diagnosis or dual disorders, co-occurring disorders continue to remain a mainstay problem of modern health care.
Co-Occurring Disorders Definition
A co-occurring disorder is when a person suffering from substance use disorder suffers from another mental health problem as well. For instance, a substance abuser who has schizophrenia is considered to be suffering from a co-occurring disorder. However, there will be times that diagnosis will not identify the mental health problem as a disorder independent of the substance use disorder. Thus, hallucinations caused by SUDs does not count.
Why are co-occurring disorders worse than SUD and mental health problems alone?
As SUD and the mental health challenge occur, these disorders intertwine. You can not treat one without completely treating the other. They have to be treated at the same time. Simply undergoing a rehab will not treat both disorders. Detox may treat SUD, but the mental health problem can remain unattended hence drastically improving the chance of relapse. The same will be true if the mental health problem is addressed first. A sufferer may be treated by therapy, but he will simply be back to square one as the addiction problem persists and spark more mental problems.
The Challenges Faced by a Person with Co-occurring Disorders
People who suffer from dual disorders are faced with several challenges that revolve not only around mental health but social and physical health as well. A good example will be the fact that they have to face stigmas in their everyday life because most people believe that SUD and most mental health problems can be easily treated by force of will. This makes it even more important to treat co-occurring disorders at the same time. The stigmas faced by an individual can easily lead to more relapse and the worsening of the existing problems.
Symptoms of Co-occurring disorders
Co-occurring disorders portray varying symptoms. These symptoms are dependent on the abused substance and the mental health disorder present. Diagnosing co-occurring disorders are challenging in the best case scenario. This is because SUD and the present mental health challenge will obscure each other’s symptoms.
The causes of co-occurring disorders are as various as the symptoms. While SUDs and mental health challenges cause each other, there are always chains of events that cause them. For instance, peer pressure can make an individual fall into SUD, then SUD will cause him to suffer from various mental health problems such as depression. In a nutshell, the major factors that play roles in the existence of co-occurring disorders include social, biological, genetic, psychological and environmental problems.
Treating Co-occurring Disorders
The treatment method for co-occurring disorders is called Integrated Treatment. As recommended by SAMHSA, such method integrates the treatment of mental health problems into the treatment of substance use disorder. This way, relapse is avoided while reducing the risk of further mental health problems.
The most successful COD treatment methods involve medications, counseling, psychoeducational classes, and self-help groups. This is then accompanied by medications. Take note however that there are facilities that advertise their facilities to be Integrated Treatment compatible despite the fact that they are not equipped to do so.