Co-occurring disorders (sometimes called dual diagnosis) is a medical/behavioral diagnosis for people who suffer from both substance use disorders and one or more emotional/psychiatric conditions. To fully recover, the person needs integrated treatment for both issues.

According to a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. Additionally, of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs.

At The Ranch mental health and alcohol and drug rehab, our specially trained staff is prepared to treat the full constellation of substance abuse and mental health issues. Each client takes part in thorough physical, mental health and trauma assessments to ensure that all substance use disorders, co-occurring mental health disorders and compulsive behaviors are properly diagnosed and treated. Learn more about The Ranch co-occurring disorders programs for men and women.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues

Often psychiatric problems develop first, and a person turns to drugs, alcohol or compulsive behaviors to cope with these challenges. However, in some instances, drug or alcohol abuse can cause changes in the brain that create or worsen mental health problems.

People with co-occurring disorders may abuse alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-soothe and feel calmer, more outgoing or more cheerful; medical professionals call this “self-medication.” Frequent self-medication may lead to physical or psychological dependency on alcohol or other drugs.

In cases where alcohol or drug addiction is the primary condition, a person whose substance abuse problem has become severe may develop symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as episodes of depression, fits of rage, hallucinations or suicide attempts.

Types of Co-Occurring Disorders

The following psychiatric problems commonly occur in tandem with alcohol or drug addiction:

  • Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive/compulsive disorder and phobias
  • Other psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and personality disorders like borderline personality disorder

Drug Detox and Co-Occurring Disorders

Since many symptoms of severe substance abuse mimic other psychiatric conditions, typically a person must go through drug or alcohol detox so that physicians can accurately assess any underlying psychiatric problems. Physical and psychological assessments should occur before and after detox and throughout treatment, and diagnoses should be updated as appropriate.

Drug and alcohol detox can take a few days to a week or more, depending on which substances the person abused and for how long. Detoxification should take place under medical care in an alcohol or drug detox center where specially trained physicians and nurses are able to monitor vital signs and provide medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Going “cold turkey” from alcohol or drugs can be dangerous as symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Treatment for co-occurring disorders is different than dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis programs typically just manage mental health symptoms with medication while eliminating substance abuse, whereas co-occurring disorders programs such as that at The Ranch treatment center have specially trained professionals and evidence-based therapies to address underlying issues like trauma, attachment issues, neglect, abuse and other situations that fuel substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Our comprehensive inpatient treatment for co-occurring disorders includes:

  • Individual, group and family therapy
  • Psychoeducation about  the disease of addiction and psychiatric conditions
  • Nutrition and wellness support
  • Participation in support groups such as 12-step programs or non-12 step programs like Refuge Recovery and SMART Recovery®
  • Evidence-based medications
  • Traditional and alternative therapies like music therapy, equine therapy, psychodrama and acupuncture
  • Mindfulness training and practice
  • Development of healthy recovery skills to replace destructive behaviors
  • Resources for continued treatment after residential care

The Ranch treatment center provides specialized treatment for co-occurring disorders. Learn more about our program.