People with substance abuse or mental health disorders are at a much higher risk for developing one or more primary conditions or chronic diseases. When primary conditions simultaneously co-occur with substance use disorders, they are referred to as comorbidities. Comorbidity also implies that the illnesses interact, which affects the course of treatment and can ultimately worsen the condition of both.

Can Comorbidity Be Prevented?

Many professionals in the healthcare industry often play a role in the prevention of comorbidity. For example, if social anxiety disorder is left untreated for a long period of time, a person may also develop depression and/or substance abuse in order to cope with those sometimes awful symptoms caused by that anxiety. At a broader level, coordination between primary doctors and mental health professionals is crucial when fighting to prevent comorbid conditions. If someone has been diagnosed with a physical and/or mental health condition, it would be important to keep good records of the care that you receive from the various healthcare professionals. This is crucial so that every future doctor that you work with can be aware and up to date with the various treatments you are or have received in the past.

Treating Comorbidity

To provide appropriate treatment for co-occurring disorders, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends an integrated treatment approach. Integrated treatment involves coordinating substance-abuse and mental health interventions, rather than treating each disorder separately without consideration for the other. 

Integrated treatment often involves forms of behavioral treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy, that can help improve the coping skills and reduce maladaptive behaviors. These may be used in combination with medication.

Treatment may also entail a collaboration between clinicians and organizations that offer support to handle issues related to housing, health, and work. As a part of programs that treat co-occurring disorders, psychoeducational classes can help increase awareness of the symptoms of disorders and the relationship between mental disorders and substance abuse.

Relapse-prevention education can help clients become aware of cues that make them more likely to abuse substances and help them develop alternative responses. Dual-diagnosis recovery groups located on treatment sites or offsite can also play a role in recovery by offering a supportive forum for the discussion of psychiatric symptoms, medication, substance-related impulses, and coping strategies.

Causes & Symptoms

Mental health and substance use disorders result from a combination of factors. Certain people have a high genetic risk for such disorders, but one’s environment can also contribute to the risk. People with mental health disorders are more likely to have a substance use disorder than those who do not. Roughly half of individuals who have either a mental illness or a substance use disorder will have the other at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

For example, an increased risk of alcohol use disorder is associated with conditions including bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, and alcohol use disorder may also be related to certain anxiety and depressive disorders. Other disorders that are substance-related are also commonly co-occurring with distinct psychiatric conditions. As in the case of opioid use disorder and depressive disorders, it is possible that a substance use problem leads to the development of other mental health challenges or that it worsens a preexisting disorder.

The symptoms of co-occurring disorders include those associated with the particular substance-abuse and/or mental health conditions affecting an individual. People suffering from co-occurring disorders are at high risk for many additional problems such as symptomatic relapses, hospitalizations, financial problems, social isolation, family problems, homelessness, sexual and physical victimization, incarceration, and serious medical illnesses.

Treating Addiction In Southern California

Being a hub for recovery, Orange County offers a setting most ideal for those recovering from addiction. With hundreds of 12-step meetings happening every day, as well as many urban necessities within walking distance that are easily accessible, Orange County sets an optimistic scene for those putting themselves on a more positive path. A Better Life Recovery’s four San Juan Capistrano rehabilitation locations are set in Orange County California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. As a region famous for its year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, rugged hills, and an active lifestyle, Orange County is widely known as a national “recovery destination.”

In order to ensure sustained progress, individuals recovering from addiction must have access not only to the best treatment programs but also to reliable rehabilitation housing assets and an active recovery community at their disposal. “Quality” sober living environments will always help lead to A Better Life Recovery. However, it also translates to a highly-structured, recovery-focused atmosphere that promotes responsibility, discipline, accountability, and commitment. Click HERE to learn more about all the ways that A Better Life Recovery help.