A co-occurring disorder is when substance use combines with mental illness to create a sometimes-lethal mix. Seattle drug rehab facilities are full of patients with more than one disease; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that 7.9 percent of the 20.2 million adults with substance use disorders also have a mental illness. While it is hard enough to get clean and sober with a disease like substance use, imagine how the disorder is exacerbated by mental illness such as depression or anxiety.
It is easy to see why, for many addicts, co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety exacerbate their substance use disorder. To make things more complicated, it is also understandable that drug or alcohol abuse can lead to depression and anxiety.
This article discusses how to handle a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse.
Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Mental illness is a brain disease. Just like cancer or diabetes, it is a treatable physical illness. Mental disorders change how people think and behave, so there is a certain amount of stigma tied to having these diseases. Substance users also face stigma; when both of these diseases co-exist it can be very hard for the person seeking help.
What is also true about these diseases is that one tends to inflate the other. When a person is depressed or anxious, he or she may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate these feelings away. Many times the underlying mental illness is undiagnosed and untreated, so it simply makes sense that the person could fall into substance use to try to find a way to feel better.
Unfortunately, this never works; alcohol, for example, is actually a depressant and drugs, while potentially providing short-term energy or euphoria, wear off quickly, forcing the user to seek more of the substance in a spiraling cycle.
Mental illness is caused by genetics, chemical imbalances in the brain, or external mitigating factors. Interestingly, it is believed that substance use stems from similar circumstances. Drugs and alcohol only make mental illness worse. If the person is on anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants, the interaction between other drugs or alcohol can be very dangerous.
Diagnosing both disorders can be a complicated process, a kind of “chicken or the egg” to figure out if the chemical dependence came first or the depression spawned the substance use. In any case, both disorders require treatment that could include medication and therapy. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence suggests that “the best treatment for co-occurring disorders is an integrated approach, where both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously.”
Developing a treatment plan and then staying the course to make it happen are the chief goals of the professionals at Seattle drug rehab.
Seattle Drug Rehab
The Washington addiction treatment community has an excellent track record of treating co-occurring mental illness and substance use. While the co-occurring disorder treatment plan varies by individual, most Seattle drug rehab includes treatment for both diseases.