Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Individuals who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction and mental health disorders are said to suffer from a dual diagnosis. Thus, such people need to attend co-occurring disorders treatment. Because addiction and co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and depression often feed off each other, treatment should address both disorders simultaneously. Co-occurring disorders treatment centers offer individualized comprehensive care to build healthy coping skills and prevent relapses. 

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What is Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment?

Co-occurring disorders treatment is also known as dual diagnosis treatment. Before the 1990s, addiction and mental health disorders were treated separately. This means individuals must be free of drugs or alcohol before seeking treatment for co-occurring disorders.

However, many people with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. As a result, people were struggling to stay sober long enough to enter mental health disorder treatment and fall through the cracks.

In the 1990s, co-occurring disorders treatment centers opened, offering new options for millions of people. These centers treat addiction or substance use disorders while also treating co-occurring disorders such as trauma, depression, and behavioral health disorders. 

Co-occurring disorders treatment should include:

  • Psychotherapy or individual therapy that addresses past traumas and issues leading to addiction and co-occurring disorders.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy that helps replace unhealthy beliefs and behaviors with healthy and positive ones. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy that works to reduce the self-harming behaviors of addiction and co-occurring disorders. 
  • Group therapy that allows people to learn from others and develop healthy coping skills.

Common Mental Health Disorders Co-Occurring with Addiction

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration), 9.5 million Americans ages 18 to 25 were diagnosed with a dual diagnosis disorder in 2019. Unfortunately, only 742,000 or 7.8 percent received co-occurring disorders treatment. 

Strong links exist between substance use disorders and mental health disorders. In fact, about half of those with substance use disorders will also struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders. Additionally, these disorders can worsen each other’s severity.

Three factors that make co-occurring disorders prevalent include:

  • Overlapping risk factors such as genetics, environmental, and exposure to trauma
  • Self-medicating is common when people struggle with untreated mental health issues
  • Drug-induced changes in the brain affect impulse control, mood, anxiety, and more

Although mental health disorders do not discriminate, certain disorders are more linked to substance use disorders than others. 

Cocaine Addiction and Co-Occurring Depression

An estimated 1 in 10 American adults struggles with major depression. Over one-third of these individuals with depression then suffer from co-occurring addictions such as a cocaine addiction. Unfortunately, cocaine and other drugs can worsen depression when a person “crashes” or comes down from the high.  

Cocaine produces a spike in dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter, causing a sense of euphoria. But, abusing cocaine can lower the natural production of dopamine and alter the brain’s chemistry. For these reasons, individuals can quickly build a tolerance to the drug resulting in cravings. 

Battling cocaine addiction and co-occurring mental disorders can feel like an endless battle. Individuals self-medicate with cocaine to cope with depression symptoms, but cocaine withdrawal increases symptoms of depression. As a result, co-occurring disorders treatment often involves antidepressants.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by chronic inattention and hyperactivity. Individuals with ADHD often struggle with thinking, memory, organization, and problem-solving. 

Individuals with ADHD also have lower dopamine levels than people without ADHD. As a result, they may use alcohol to cope with their symptoms. However, there is a misconception that is because alcohol is a depressant, it will calm people with ADHD down. Unfortunately, the results are often the opposite, leading people with ADHD to experience uncontrollable emotions and behaviors.

Approximately one in four adults in treatment for alcohol use disorder have co-occurring ADHD. For this reason, co-occurring disorders treatment that involves ADHD may include stimulants to manage ADHD symptoms. However, stimulants are highly addictive, and supervision of use is recommended. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Co-Occurring Benzodiazepine Abuse

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common mental health disorder affecting over 18 percent of American adults. While many people feel anxious from time to time, excessive, uncontrollable worry can interfere with daily life. 

Benzodiazepines or benzos have tranquilizing and anti-anxiety effects. For this reason, many people self-medicate with benzos. However, they are also highly addictive. 

Common benzos include:

  • Xanax – short-term anxiety relief
  • Klonopin – treats panic disorders
  • Valium – early treatment of panic disorders
  • Ativan – treats anxiety and co-occurring disorders
  • Librium – treats anxiety disorders and alcohol withdrawal

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Co-Occurring Opioid Use Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that develops due to sexual abuse, military combat, serious accident, or a catastrophe. Some individuals may experience short-term PTSD symptoms after a frightening event. However, PTSD is debilitating and lasts more than a month.

Individuals struggling with PTSD have life-like recurrent flashbacks, scary dreams or thoughts, and are easily startled. Due to these debilitating symptoms, people with PTSD often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with its symptoms. 

Additionally, studies link PTSD and chronic pain issues. As a result, opioid prescriptions are highest amongst those with PTSD. However, this easy access to highly addictive medications increases co-occurring disorders such as opioid use disorder. 

Bipolar Disorder and Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder

Individuals who experience a mixture of manic and depressive episodes struggle with bipolar disorder. They often feel a lack of control over their lives and a sense of uneasiness. Many people with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol to cope with these feelings. 

Some people may not have any signs of bipolar disorder before developing an addiction. Tha’ts because alcohol and other drugs can cause changes in the brain, especially in its reward system and regulation of mood and behaviors, that lead to the development of bipolar disorder.

Factors that increase the symptoms of addiction and co-occurring bipolar disorder include:

  • Inherited traits – Genetics can affect brain chemistry and changes linked to bipolar disorder. Genetics also affects the body’s response to drugs and alcohol. 
  • Depression and anxiety – Symptoms of bipolar disorder include anxiety and depression. While alcohol may help in the short term, it ultimately worsens symptoms. 
  • Mania – The opposite of depression is mania. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of intense joy or euphoria and hyperactivity. This can lead to lowered inhibitions and bad judgment, including abusing alcohol or using drugs. 

Studies show that people with bipolar disorder are seven times more likely to struggle with addiction. In fact, almost half of those with bipolar disorder abuse alcohol. However, alcohol intensifies manic episodes, and unfortunately, people with bipolar disorder find this intensity pleasurable. This makes co-occurring disorders treatment for people that suffer from bipolar disorder and alcohol use issues challenging. 

Schizophrenia and Marijuana Use

Schizophrenia affects about one percent or 2 million Americans. This disorder makes it difficult for people to differentiate between reality and imagination. It also causes people to have inappropriate emotional reactions in social situations. 

Marijuana use is common amongst people with schizophrenia. In fact, young adults struggling with schizophrenia prefer marijuana over alcohol. However, marijuana use can worsen psychosis in those with schizophrenia. 

Eating Disorders and Appetite Suppressant Addiction

According to NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association, 30 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. 

Almost 64 percent of people with eating disorders also misuse both over-the-counter and prescription appetite suppressants. People don’t realize that appetite suppressants are addictive. This is because, although they do not produce a high, they are abused for their fat-burning properties and hunger-reducing abilities. Additionally, individuals with eating disorders often use diuretics, laxatives, amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin.

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Addiction is Also a Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder

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People that suffer from an addiction to alcohol or drugs are said to suffer from substance use disorders. According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, addiction is also a mental health disorder. 

Addiction is a complex disorder that develops due to drug-induced changes in the brain. Additionally, addiction is characterized by behaviors such as intense cravings and continued substance use despite the negative consequences that it causes.

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Why are Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders Common?

Sometimes it is difficult to know if the substance addiction or the mental health disorder within a co-occurring disorder came first. For instance, some people use drugs or alcohol to cope with their already existing mental health struggles. For example, a person with depression may misuse cocaine in an attempt to feel happy. 

Other individuals develop mental health disorders only after abusing drugs and alcohol though. This is because chronic abuse of drugs and alcohol alter one’s brain chemistry in a way that often causes people to develop mental health disorders.

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Signs and Symptoms That an Individual Needs Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Many co-occurring disorders made out of substance addictions and mental health disorders have the same symptoms. For this reason, it can be challenging to differentiate between the different types of substance use and mental health disorders that a person could be suffering from. Therefore, talking to both a substance use specialist and mental health professional is often crucial in getting a correct diagnosis. 

Each mental health disorder has distinct characteristics and symptoms. However, there are common signs and symptoms that all mental health disorders have. These include:

  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or fun activities
  • Extreme emotional highs and lows
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Increased irritability
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Losing touch with reality
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Unexplained physical pain
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Inability to see a problem with one’s behavior

The symptoms of substance use disorders also vary depending on the substance that is being abused. Still, there are common signs and symptoms that someone who suffers from a co-occurring disorder that involves a substance addiction needs co-occurring disorders treatment.  These signs include:

  • Inability to stop using a substance despite the consequences
  • Going through withdrawal when not consuming drugs or alcohol
  • Needing drugs or alcohol to cope with stress
  • Trouble handling daily responsibilities
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Missing time at work or school
  • Needing more of a substance to achieve the same effects (tolerance)
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Spending most of the day getting, using, and recovering from substance use

Struggling with co-occurring disorders can lead to more issues such as trouble maintaining housing and employment, relationship difficulties, health issues, and an increased risk of legal troubles. 

What is Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment?

Co-occurring disorders treatment centers can assess, diagnose, and treat a dual diagnosis. Plus, many dual diagnosis treatment centers also provide services for housing and employment. 

But, the most important aspect of co-occurring disorders treatment is that it simultaneously addresses both substance use and mental health disorders. Thus, treatment programs such as residential treatment allow individuals to address their mental health issues without the risk of relapsing into substance abuse and vice versa. 

Types of Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Programs

As a co-occurring disorders treatment center, The Owl’s Nest provides comprehensive individualized treatment to support recovery from substance use along with mental health treatment. There are a variety of treatment programs available to meet the needs of each individual. 

Residential or Inpatient Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Individuals that choose to attend residential treatment programs live in their rehab facilities 24/7 while they receive care. Such programs allow people to focus on their recovery without outside triggers and influences. Treatment in residential treatment programs typically include:

  • Medical detox
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Life skills training
  • Aftercare programs

Partial Hospitalization Program for Co-Occurring Disorders

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) for a co-occurring disorder is a form of outpatient treatment. Individuals in a PHP attend therapy for five to seven days a week for up to eight hours a day. Although inpatient treatment is the most effective treatment, partial hospitalization programs allow people to receive therapy that is just as intensive while also giving them the flexibility to live in their own homes in-between treatment sessions and tend to their normal life responsibilities. 

Intensive Outpatient Programs for Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Individuals in intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) typically spend three or four hours a day a few days a week in therapy. As a continuum-of-care treatment plan, intensive outpatient treatment focuses on helping people build the coping skills that they need to live healthy lives.

Common Therapies in Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

The goal of co-occurring disorders treatment is to get people to achieve recovery from substance abuse while also effectively coping with their mental health disorders. Co-occirring disorders treatment plans typically include counseling, behavioral therapies, and medication.

Therapies proven effective in treating co-occurring disorders include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), that explores a person’s unhealthy thoughts and beliefs and helps him or her replace them with healthy thoughts beliefs, and behaviors.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which helps people accept their negative thoughts and feelings so that they don’t have power to cause them to exhibit unhealthy behaviors.
  • Contingency management (CM), which provides small incentives for positive behaviors such as staying sober.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy, which helps increase peoples’ motivation to make positive changes in their lives.
  • Holistic therapies, which are non-traditional forms of therapy that focus on treating the minds, bodies, and souls of people. Examples of holistic therapies include yoga, meditation, and hypnotherapy. 

Find Lasting Recovery from Co-Occurring Disorders at The Owl’s Nest

If you or someone you love is struggling with a co-occurring disorder that’s made out of a substance addiction and mental health disorder, we can help. Our comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment program here at Owl’s Nest not only empowers people to maintain recovery, but also gives them the tools that they need to live happy and fulfilling lives. Contact us today to learn more about the treatment programs and services that we offer here at Owl’s Nest Recovery.