It’s an unfortunate reality that substance addiction and mental illness often go hand-in-hand. Commonly referred to as “co-occurring disorder”, this combination can be harmful to recovery. Concurrent treatment of both addiction and mental illness can be effective in helping addicts recover.
The benefits of treating addiction and mental illness simultaneously are threefold. First, it can help patients understand the difference between their distinct disorders. Second, treatment can keep patients from relapsing into harmful behaviors. Third, concurrent treatment can address the root cause of addiction or mental illness.
1: Understanding the Differences in Disorders
Developing a plan for treating addiction and mental illness at the same time requires an honest appraisal of what ails a patient. The treatment for alcoholism, for example, can differ from the treatment for depression. Treating one and not the other leaves the patient vulnerable to relapses — patients treated holistically recover faster.
Concurrent treatment also enables recovery programs tailored to specific patients. Treatments that address only one of a patient’s disorders can be ineffective in the long-term.
2: Preventing Relapse into Harmful Behaviors
With at least 60% of substance abusers experiencing some form of mental illness, harmful behaviors are well and plenty. Addicts who suffer from depression may partake in self-destructive activities — like alcoholism. The desire to self-medicate only exacerbates the underlying disorder, leading to further regression.
Preventing relapse into harmful behaviors is a major benefit of concurrent treatment. Imagine an individual with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). People who suffer from GAD are more likely to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, and other harmful substances. If the only issue addressed is substance abuse, it’s likely that the individual may relapse later in life.
3: Addressing the Root Cause of Disorders
The root causes of addiction include trauma, mental health issues, peer pressure, low self-esteem, and genetics. The best treatment programs address the underlying reason why a patient resorts to harmful behavior (and help to prevent it).
Trauma is a common cause of both substance abuse and mental illness. Individuals with a history of trauma tend to self-medicate, which contributes to substance abuse. Patients are more likely to recover when treatment addresses the underlying trauma.
Mental health is both a cause and result of addiction — it’s common for individuals to abuse drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for mental illness. Of course, mental illness can also work in reverse. Individuals may develop mental illness as a result of their substance abuse. Treating chemical and mental disorders simultaneously helps address this causal factor.
Low self-esteem and peer pressure can contribute to both addiction and mental illness. Drug experimentation is not uncommon and can lead someone down the path of addiction. Likewise, low self-esteem can lead to a person seeking acceptance and confidence from substances. All in all, low self-esteem and peer pressure can have serious negative effects on mental health.
Benefits of Treating Mental Illness and Addiction at the Same Time
Concurrent treatment of co-occurring disorders is an effective and necessary strategy. Individuals can see the distinction between their disorders and see how each one contributes to the other. Simultaneous treatment also helps ‘cover the bases’ and prevent harmful relapse.
Lastly, concurrent treatment works to address the root causes of disorders. Treatment programs that take this comprehensive approach can be effective and will leave the patient with the right tools for success.
Evidence-based addiction treatment from Spring Hill Recovery Center does this and more. At Spring Hill, treatment is holistic, comprehensive, and proven to better patients. Unique treatment plans for each patient is fundamental — personal care for every person.
“Co-Occurring Disorders.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/co-occurring-disorders.
“The Double Demons of Depression and Addiction.” Dual Diagnosis, www.dualdiagnosis.org/resource/depression/.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness.” NIDA, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness.
“Facing the Root Causes of Addiction.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201304/facing-the-root-causes-addiction.