Treating Comorbid Substance Abuse and Mental Illness: What You Need to Know

Comorbid substance abuse and mental illness requires specialized treatment. Here’s what you should know about co-occurring disorders.

According to mental illness and substance abuse statistics, around one-third of people who have a mental illness also have a substance use disorder. Conversely, a third of people with an alcohol addiction and more than half of those with a drug addiction also have a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Comorbid substance abuse and mental illness requires specialized treatment through a high-quality dual diagnosis addiction treatment program.

Why Are Comorbid Substance Abuse and Mental Illness So Common?

The reason for the high prevalence of comorbid substance abuse and mental illness is two-fold, according to mental illness and substance abuse statistics and research. There is a strong relationship between mental illness and drug abuse.

First, people with a mental illness like anxiety or depression are very likely to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate unpleasant symptoms. This can lead to addiction as the brain learns that using the substance produces feelings of pleasure and wellbeing. But drugs and alcohol almost always make a mental illness worse.

Secondly, drug and alcohol abuse can cause the onset of a mental illness that didn’t previously exist. This is due to changes in the chemical function of the brain that can lead to anxiety, depression, psychosis, and other mental illnesses.

The relationship between mental illness and drug abuse is well-known, and research shows that the best way to treat it is through a dual diagnosis treatment program.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Comorbid Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Treating co-occurring disorders requires an integrated approach to treatment. Treating just the mental illness but not the addiction will likely do very little to end the addiction for the long-term. Likewise, treating just the addiction without addressing the mental illness won’t offer the best possible outcome of treatment.

Successful treatment for comorbid substance abuse and mental illness requires treating both the addiction and the mental illness at the same time, each in the context of the other. This requires collaboration between treatment teams.

How Dual Diagnosis Treatment Works

A high-quality dual diagnosis treatment program will offer a variety of both traditional and complementary therapies that help you address a variety of issues from a number of different angles. Common traditional therapies for treating comorbid substance abuse and mental illness include:

  • Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” which helps you delve into the issues that underlie the addiction and mental illness, which may include chronic stress or a history of trauma.
  • Pharmacotherapy, or the use of medications to treat symptoms of mental illness as well as help reduce cravings and other effects of addiction.
  • Family therapy, which helps repair damaged relationships and restore function to the family system.

Common complementary therapies used to treat co-occurring disorders include:

  • Art therapy and music therapy, which improves self-awareness, reduce stress and cope with negative emotions.
  • Meditation, which increases mindfulness, improves your mood and reduces stress.
  • Acupuncture, which can help reduce cravings, increase energy levels, and help improve the function of the body’s systems.

Holistic Treatment is Essential for Success

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that a holistic approach to treatment that involves a variety of therapies offers the best outcomes. A holistic program addresses mind, body, and spirit for whole-person healing. Better Addiction Care can help you find a high quality, holistic dual diagnosis program to help you overcome comorbid substance abuse and mental illness for the long-term.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.


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