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Comorbidity and the Importance of Treating Co-Occurring Disorders in Addiction Treatment

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Comorbidity and the Importance of Treating Co-Occurring Disorders in Addiction Treatment

May 24, 2018
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Years ago the general description of a patient that showed up at the doors of a rehab looked something like this: Middle-aged, Caucasian male. He had a wife and children and a career or a trade. His “drug of choice” was alcohol. Fast-forward to 2018, where patients that are in desperate need of addiction treatment run the gamut from teenager to older adult, unemployed and homeless to executive and affluent. All races, colors, creeds, genders and socioeconomic status are represented. Also, the individual situations and cases are becoming more complex, interwoven with psychiatric and mental health conditions. Few if anyone typically shows up today entering a rehab without a diagnosis that includes a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. This is called “comorbidity,” which is when two or more disorders or illnesses occur in the same person, sometimes at the same time or sometimes one after the other.

Comorbid addiction and mental illness are very common, as many people that suffer from addiction are also diagnosed with a mental health disorder and many individuals that have a mental illness are also diagnosed with a substance use disorder. In fact, the numbers are staggering: Compared to the general population, individuals that suffer from a substance use disorder or addiction are roughly twice as likely to suffer from a mood and/or anxiety disorders. However, it is very important to note that just because a person suffers from addiction and a mental health disorder does not mean that one caused the other. Often it can be extremely difficult or even impossible to determine which one came first or why. However, it is important to understand that there is much research and evidence that suggests substance misuse or drug abuse may bring about symptoms of another mental illness and that mental health disorders can lead to the misuse or abuse of substances, often due to the act of self-medicating in order to calm, regulate or alleviate the symptoms of the mental illness.

Therefore, because of the high rate of comorbidity between addiction and mental health conditions, addiction treatment centers must be well-versed in treating co-occurring disorders. Gone are the days that “dual diagnosis” was a specialized area of addiction treatment and no longer can it be a marketing agenda for rehabs to promote themselves online to potential patients and families. If an addiction treatment center treats patients with addiction issues, they must also be able to handle patients with dual diagnosis and co-occurring issues, because that patient now is the standard description of a patient walking through the doors of a rehab. An addiction treatment center must be staffed with licensed and qualified clinical and medical staff that can identify, assess, evaluate and treat both addiction and mental health. Clinical sophistication through evidence-based practices, behavioral therapies, therapeutic interventions, psychiatric care and effective medications should all be part of the clinical approach, tailored specifically for the individual patient and their clinical needs.

Drug addiction and mental health go hand-in-hand for many patients, regardless if an individual suffers from addiction or is simply self-medicating a mental health condition with substances that now have begun to have a negative impact on their life and their health. Any quality Drug treatment center therefore needs to be able to effectively treat both addiction and mental health disorders through a comprehensive treatment approach that identifies and treats both addiction and mental health issues at the same time, in order to operate with best clinical practices and achieve recovery outcomes for patients.

If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs.