Dual Diagnosis: Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Disorders

Dual Diagnosis, Some of the most common mental health disorders that co-occur with substance use disorders include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),

When a person has an addiction to drugs or alcohol and a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, it is called a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. The disorders can develop at the same time or separately. Dual diagnosis is a severe issue that affects many people today. Sadly, the numbers are increasing.

Dual Diagnosis: An Increasing Problem

Statistics from the United States Department of Justice, The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), and The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Health Policy Commission show the increase in people with co-occurring disorders.

  1. In 2002, an estimated 4 million adults in the United States met the criteria for substance use disorder and a mental health disorder.
  2. In 2016, an estimated 8.2 million American adults met the criteria for substance use disorder and mental health disorder. Co-occurring disorders were found more often in people with drug and alcohol addiction, with 43 percent of those with substance use disorder also having a mental health disorder. In contrast, only 18 percent of the people with a mental health disorder also were diagnosed with a substance use disorder.
  3. In 2016, approximately only seven percent of individuals with dual diagnosis received treatment for both disorders.
  4. In 2021, an estimated 19.4 million Americans, or 33.5 percent of United States adults, met the criteria for dual diagnosis. 
  5. Currently it is estimated that as many as 50 percent of Americans with substance use disorders also suffer from a mental health disorder.

The Connection Between Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

There is a complex relationship between addiction and mental illness. They can occur together, or one can sometimes lead to the other. The co-occurring disorders may be different in severity, but the severity of either can change with time. Sometimes, one disorder causes the other to worsen. The symptoms of the two illnesses often interact with each other, impacting the progression, prognosis, and treatment of the affected person. 

It is not always clear which condition comes first. In some cases, addiction may lead to mental illness. For example, chronic drug use can alter brain chemistry and lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. In other cases, mental illness may lead to addiction. For example, people with depression may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. It is important to note that not everyone with a drug or alcohol addiction will develop a mental health disorder, and not everyone with a mental health disorder will develop a substance addiction.

Common Co-occurring Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Disorders

Some of the most common mental health disorders that co-occur with substance use disorders include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and borderline or antisocial personality disorder. Although there are numerous possible combinations of substance use disorders and mental health disorders, some combinations are more common than others. 

Some of the most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Alcohol addiction and depression or anxiety disorder
  • Opioid addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder or depression
  • Crystal meth addiction and anxiety disorder
  • Cocaine addiction and major depression
  • Heroin addiction and bipolar disorder

A dual diagnosis makes treatment more complex, as both disorders must be addressed simultaneously for effective recovery. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Treating individuals with a dual diagnosis of addiction and a mental health disorder presents unique challenges. An integrated treatment plan that addresses both disorders is essential for effective recovery. Understanding these challenges and working with them together can lead to positive outcomes.

Recovery is Possible

Overcoming stigma is a crucial step in seeking treatment for dual diagnosis. Society often stigmatizes individuals with substance use and mental health disorders, making it difficult for them to reach out for help. By overcoming stigma and seeking help, individuals can take the first step towards a healthier and happier life.

Whether you or a loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction or a co-occurring disorder, recovery is possible. However, getting the right help is critical. At English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, we understand dual diagnoses and know how to address them. You will have a specialized program to help you feel better and live a sober life. Now is the time to take the first step. Contact us today.