If you’ve spent any time researching addiction and/or mental health treatment, you’ve probably heard of the term co-occurring disorders. Here, learn the details on what this term means, as well as information on the prevalence of co-occurring disorders.

What are co-occurring disorders?

The term co-occurring disorders is used to refer to patients who have both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition. For example, someone who lives with both depression and cocaine addiction is said to have a co-occurring disorder. When a person has a co-occurring disorder, it is important to receive treatment for both conditions.

As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has explained, there are several reasons that people develop co-occurring disorders. For example, there are risk factors that can increase a person’s odds of developing both a mental illness and an addiction. Certain genes may contribute to both addiction and mental illness, and stress and trauma are linked to mental illness and addiction.

Addiction changes the brain

Sometimes, addiction can change the brain in ways that increase the risk of mental health problems. Similarly, mental illnesses may lead people to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, which ultimately leads to the development of an addiction.

“Drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug use that marks addiction” explains the NIH in their report ‘Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction’.

Prevalence of Co-Occurring Disorders

According to NIDA, co-occurring disorders are common. Around half of people with addictions will experience a mental health disorder at some point during their lives, and vice-versa.

“Researchers have found that about half of individuals who experience a SUD during their lives will also experience a co-occurring mental disorder and vice versa. Co-occurring disorders can include anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia…” explains the National Institute of Mental Health. However, it is important to consider that “mental disorders commonly co-occur, that does not mean that one caused the other.”

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental health conditions that commonly co-occur among people receiving MAT for addiction are as follows:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Conduct Disorder
  • PTSD
  • ADHD

Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Individuals who have co-occurring disorders require treatment for both the addiction and the mental health condition.

If a mental health disorder goes untreated, a person may continue using drugs to self-medicate, which prevents them from overcoming the addiction. At the same time, if a person receives treatment for a mental health disorder but not an addiction, ongoing drug use may cause mental health to deteriorate.

Generally, co-occurring disorders treatments may include behavioral therapies and medication assisted therapy. As the NIMH explains, all treatment plans should “be tailored to an individual’s specific combination of disorders and symptoms, the person’s age, the misused substance, and the specific mental disorder(s).”

Unique Treatment Plans

For the reasons noted above, people who have co-occurring disorders should receive integrated treatment, in which they receive services to address mental health and addiction simultaneously. Each patient’s treatment plan will vary based upon their unique needs, but often times, behavioral interventions like counseling and therapy are used in combination with medication to treat co-occurring disorders.

NIDA reports that behavioral treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and assertive community treatment are effective for treating co-occurring disorders.

Online Telehealth Treatment Options

At irecoveryusa.com, we provide online treatment for co-occurring disorders. Our services are available in a 100% remote format via our telehealth app, and we create treatment plans uniquely designed for each patient. Call us at 844-923-0297 to begin treatment from the comfort and privacy of home.


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