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Quite often, individuals suffering from substance abuse are also afflicted with some type of mental illness. In the mental health community, these simultaneously occurring illnesses have come to be known as co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders.|
A person suffering from both substance abuse/chemical dependency and emotional/ psychological illnesses can be difficult to treat, but more and more doctors are recognizing that the two often go hand-in-hand. While each illness may possess particular symptoms that affect a person’s ability to function on a daily basis, the illnesses may also interact with each other, with symptoms overlapping and masking each other, making a diagnosis quite tricky.
Official statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services note that 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug users also have at least one serious mental illness. Of all those people diagnosed as mentally ill, it is also noted that about 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs.
Facts also point out that the relapse rate for those with co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders is higher. Symptoms of mental disorders also recur much more frequently in those individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Often, a person with co-occurring disorders uses drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and cover up the existing mental difficulties, thus causing dual problems. That’s why proper diagnosis is so important. Without a solid diagnosis, the two disorders will continue to interact and worsen.
Traditionally, individuals dealing with dual diagnosis were treated separately for each disorder though, recently, mental health professionals have recognized the ineffectiveness of treating co-occurring disorders in this manner. However, most still maintain that detoxification must occur first before additional problems can be addressed but that abstinence may not necessarily need to be a pre-condition of treatment for the mental illness. Having the same team of medical professionals treating both disorders can also be helpful to the patient.
Individuals can indeed recover from co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders, but patience will be needed as well as ongoing support from family and friends, outpatient support groups, and others that are interested in the well-being of the individual in question.
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