Substance abuse disorders describe an unhealthy use of alcohol or other drugs such as sedatives, stimulants, or opiates. Substance use becomes substance abuse when it interferes with a person’s social relationships, job, or school-related responsibilities; a person is regarded as “dependent” when tolerance develops and withdrawal symptoms are noticed after cessation of use of the drug or alcohol.
Individuals who abuse substances face the possibility of developing a mental disorder as a result. People who spend the majority of their time under the influence of drugs or alcohol may develop mood disorders because they are unable to regulate their body or emotions without their substance of choice. This behavior leads to co-occurring mental health issues by coupling a newly developed mental disorder with the previously existing substance abuse patterns.
Living with co-occurring mental health issues is not an easy task, and there are numerous consequences to be faced by those who do not seek treatment, do not receive appropriate treatment, or are never diagnosed at all.
Those who do not receive adequate treatment for their co-occurring mental health issues have a higher risk of being homeless, going to jail, or committing suicide. This is very unfortunate because all of these possibilities result the affected individual being further removed from treatment. Because of the interactions between variables, co-occurring mental health issues are complex; thus, they must be treated with an integrated approach that focuses on all aspects of the disorders at the same time. Improving just one of the health issues will not necessarily improve the other in turn.
Effective treatment of co-occurring mental health issues includes: Screening for disorders, assessment, treatment planning, and a personalized, integrated treatment followed by continuous post-treatment attention. These combinations of disorders present intimidating challenges; however, with the proper treatment, individuals with these disorders can take control again and radically improve the quality of their lives.