man with hand over face dealing with addiction and mental illness

The Co-occurrence of Addiction and Mental Illness: Meeting the Challenge

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a difficult problem for anyone to overcome. But imagine how hard it would be to successfully conquer a substance abuse problem if you were also struggling with a mental health issue. Addiction and mental illness complicate treatment and recovery. A person trying to beat addiction requires all of the inner strength and focus they can generate. But mental illness robs individuals of the resources they need just to cope with daily living.

Often, individuals struggling with co-occurrence are believed to be either addicted or mentally ill, but not both. But to find their way back to good health individuals need to be diagnosed and treated for any conditions they might be suffering from. They will need to be treated for everything at the same time, in a carefully controlled and coordinated manner. At the Ranch TN, we make it a point to assess and treat the whole person. Doing so makes recovery effective and lasting.

The Facts about Co-occurrence

The connection between substance abuse and psychiatric disorders is neither rare nor tenuous. Approximately 20% of all who are suffering from a psychiatric disorder also have substance abuse issues. 50% of all drug addicts and alcoholics are also coping with some kind of serious mental illness. The rates of co-occurrence are especially high for those who have been diagnosed with either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. About half of all victims of these disorders are also addicted to drugs or alcohol. Life can be an uphill struggle for any substance abuser, and obviously, for anyone trying to cope with a psychiatric condition as well. But things tend to spiral out of control for those forced to cope with addiction and mental illness at the same time. Those diagnosed with both have:

  • Higher levels of involvement in violent incidents or crimes
  • Much higher rates of dropout from addiction treatment facilities
  • Higher levels of relapse
  • More episodes of psychosis
  • More problems with chronic physical illness
  • A greatly increased likelihood of ending up homeless
  • Higher incarceration rates

Because the complicated nature of their problems is seldom acknowledged or understood, mentally ill addicts or alcoholics do not usually receive the kind of comprehensive, integrated treatment they truly require. Often they end up cast-off and adrift without an effective support network to help them out or look after them. Family members may try to help for a while, but they are frequently overwhelmed by the depth and complexity of the problems their loved ones face, and they tend to reach a point where they no longer know what to do or where to turn.

Finding Hope for the Hopeless

The question of which came first is not all that important in the final analysis. But it seems likely that mental illness is more often a cause of addiction than addiction is a cause of mental illness. Drugs and alcohol are seductive because they help people bear the unbearable. Thus, addiction is seen as a symptom of some deeper underlying conflict or dysfunction. For this reason, family caretakers would be well advised to do everything they can to keep their mentally ill loved ones away from drugs and alcohol. Exposure to addictive substances, in this case, can only make things worse.

Once addiction and mental illness are present together, they will inevitably feed and reinforce each other. So in this situation, both problems must be treated aggressively and simultaneously. Professionals use dual diagnosis treatment to deal with this issue. However, in this program, some other treatments and therapies are used to help individuals such as:

These and other techniques get at the root cause of an individual’s underlying mental health issues. Also, they are able to work through their physical addiction, learning to cope and overcome triggers.

Studies have proven that co-occurrence treatment plans work better than an approach that tackles one problem at a time, and there is no clear way that the effects of one can be differentiated from the other anyway. So after someone struggling to overcome a mental illness has started using drugs or alcohol, at that point, it would be foolish to pretend the substance abuse issue does not exist. Similarly, it would be foolish for those concerned with the welfare of an addict to ignore any psychiatric conditions that might also be present.

Help Overcoming Addiction and Mental Illness at The Ranch TN

The common experience for most mentally ill addicts has been limited and inadequate treatment. However, over the last decade, understanding of the connection between substance abuse and mental illness has deepened considerably. There are now many treatment options available for people who are suffering from a psychiatric disorder and an addiction.

But to get help, it is up to family members and friends to accurately assess what is going on. They can then let the professionals at The Ranch TN know what is happening. Our addiction counselors, psychiatrists, and co-occurrence specialists can develop a treatment regimen to help. So reach out to us today at 1.844.876.7680 to explore what we have to offer.

Scroll to Top