Substance use disorders (SUD) have been on the rise in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 20.1 million people aged 12 or older were diagnosed with an SUD in 2015. The number included 15.1 million people who had an alcohol use disorder and 7.4 million people who had an illicit drug use disorder.
What is worsening the condition is the rising number of individuals with mental illness. The SAMHSA had estimated that approximately 44.7 million adults were affected by some or the other form of mental illness in 2015. This, in turn, has affected the overall growth, performance and wellness chart of Americans.
Apart from these, if there are individuals who are affected by both the conditions at the same time, it is known as a co-occurring disorder or comorbidity disorder. As per the reports, it has been found that the co-occurring disorder had affected nearly 2.6 million adults aged 18 or older in 2015.
To manage their condition better, every individual opts for some or the other form of treatment, ranging from psychotherapy, self-help groups, support groups and medications. Of these, the most commonly used method is paying a visit to the psychiatrist.
Study to evaluate psychiatry’s role in dealing with co-occurring disorders
Mark and Meinhofer (2018) recently conducted a study to evaluate the effective ways in which psychiatry addresses co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder in an individual. Conducted to evaluate the level of care being provided, the researchers analyzed the data collected from the 2012-2015 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey on office-based psychiatric visits. Information like diagnosis, medical prescription, etc. were evaluated to identify the conditions being treated and how they were being treated.
The researchers could diagnose substance use disorder on only 9 percent of office visits. This implied that less than half of the 20 percent patients diagnosed with co-occurring disorder were receiving care when seen by outpatient psychiatry. It is, therefore, possible for psychiatrists, who have received general psychiatry training, to impart a more accurate diagnosis and better treatment for co-occurring conditions by identifying substance abuse conditions in their patients. The same can be expected from the primary care providers, in cases of both mental illness and substance use disorder.
Substance use disorders not being evaluated completely
To have a clearer understanding about this situation, it is important to know the reasons why a large number of people with substance use disorders (SUD) were not provided a proper evaluation by outpatient psychiatrists.
Some of the common reasons for this include a lack of attention to their symptoms, patients hiding their substance-related problems when evaluated, under-diagnosis of the condition as well as lack of treatment even after diagnosis.
The issue could also be arising from the fact that physicians might avoid addressing the problem of substance use disorder, owing to the reluctance of the patients to accept the situation. Moreover, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is not considered to be a problem by many as alcohol is available legally and is also a part of the social fabric.
SUDs are also associated with shame and stigma in the society, which, in turn, further complicates the possibility of adequate treatment alliance. This is because building a strong relationship to seek help needs time. Choice and preference are also important determiners when seeking help. Patients prefer to visit such professionals who do not ask many questions or go deep into the problem.
Further research needed
It has become the need of the hour to carry out further researches so that doctors and physicians are able to offer the right kind of help to patients dealing with mental illness and SUD. Interventions should be done both on the individual as well as professional level to ensure that there is reduced stigma associated with these conditions and barriers to care like socioeconomic factors, geographic access, etc.
If there’s someone you know who is affected by a dual diagnosis condition and looking for dual diagnosis treatment centers in California, the California dual diagnosis helpline can help. Call our 24/7 dual diagnosis helpline (855) 980-1736 or chat online with one of our experts to connect with one of the best treatment centers in California.