Co-Occuring Disorders Treatment

Co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders are very common and oftentimes overlooked.

It has been estimated that 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. Conversely, it has been estimated that 29 percent of all people diagnosed as mentally ill abuse either alcohol or drugs.

Mental health problems often predate substance abuse problems by 4-6 years; alcohol or other drugs may be used as a form of self-medication to alleviate the symptoms of the mental disorder. In some cases, substance abuse precedes the development of mental health problems. For instance, anxiety and depression may be brought on as a response to stressors from broken relationships, lost employment, and other situations directly related to a drug-using lifestyle.


Which came first? Emotional Issues or Substance Abuse?

Often the psychiatric problem occurs first. In an attempt to feel better the individual self-medicates with alcohol or drugs which can lead to chemical dependency. Depression, anxiety, bipolar depression, ADHD, and even schizophrenia are all implicated in increased risk to drink or use drugs to help them with there emotional tone.

In other cases, the alcohol or drug dependency is the primary condition which over time can lead to depression, anxiety and more severe emotional and mental problems.

Regardless of the cause, the first step to living a more healthy life. Sleep, exercise, diet (SED) is essential for non medical approaches to improvement in mood. At times medications such as mood stabilizers and other psychotropics can be very helpful.


Co-occuring disorders treatment should provide for:

  • Drug and Alcohol Use
  • Behavioral Addictions
  • Co-dependency Patterns
  • Mental Health and Psychiatric Status
  • Trauma Issues
  • Compulsivity
  • Family Functioning
  • Social Relationships
  • Physical Health and Fitness
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Vocational and Educational Needs
  • Legal Problems
  • Sleep Hygiene

An Integrated Co-Occuring Disorders Treatment

Treatment Should be Integrated!

Specialists including psychiatrists, psychologists, physical health and fitness professionals should work in tandem to make a specific treatment plan for each person.

Addressing mood disorders, the role of medications, and the biology of addictions should be supervised by a psychiatrist. Addressing psychological patterns, defenses, personality styles, core recurrent relationship themes, and cognitive distortions can be addressed by psychologists.

Sleep, exercise, diet, can all influence emotional tone. Sleep hygiene is an important, non chemical approach, to helping the brain respond in a predictable fashion. Exercise can lift and regulate mood by stimulating natural endorphin release. A good healthy diet also key to helping the body and the brain heal itself.