Due to the enigmatic nature of the brain, the co-occurrence of substance use disorder (SUD) and mental disorders continues to be a mystery. Like the riddle “which came first, the chicken or egg,” one cannot hold either of them responsible for causing the other due to overlapping symptoms and increased interdependence.
While drug and substance abuse changes the levels of brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, known for controlling moods, one may resort to their use due to the grave challenges of mental disorders. Therefore, coexisting disorders like SUD and psychiatric illnesses are prevalent among people suffering from mental illnesses or abusing substances.
According to a recent study, published in MedScape in January 2018, the rate of co-occurrence of mental disorders is as high as 72 percent among people afflicted with drug addiction and around 45 percent among those suffering from alcoholism. Moreover, around 20 to 45 percent people going through the recovery process were diagnosed with coexisting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and approximately 10 to 15 percent individuals met the criteria for social phobia. These statistics corroborate the interrelationship between substance abuse and mental disorders.
Understanding different dimensions of coexisting diseases
Among the many theories related to the close association between mental disorders and substance abuse, past researches have suggested that the overlapping of risk factors such as genetics, environmental triggers like stress and trauma, involvement of similar parts of the brain, etc. have a prominent role to play. Therefore, conditions like psychiatric disorders and SUDs co-occur due to the interplay of these factors.
In order to comprehend the comorbidity of mental illnesses and SUDs, it is essential to be aware of the fact that addiction to drugs or alcohol is a complex brain disease that causes numerous changes in the brain structure and function. It has been widely observed that similar brain areas are affected during both physical and mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. Due to the above-mentioned similarities, it often becomes difficult to treat coexisting disorders like SUD and psychiatric illnesses individually. By diminishing control over impulsive and compulsive behaviors, the risk of developing a mental illness increases due to substance abuse and vice versa.
At the same time, people suffering from mood or anxiety disorders are two times more likely to develop SUD compared to others. Many people turn to addictive substances for the purpose of self-medication; for example, people suffering from schizophrenia often abuse tobacco products as they feel that it helps improve their cognition. As one can diagnose comorbid diseases only when a certain amount of time has passed after their manifestation, it becomes a difficult task for medical practitioners and experts to determine the causality or directionality of the problem.
Since the brain is still maturing both structurally and functionally during adolescence, most of the youngsters are vulnerable to drugs and alcohol. These substances are responsible for affecting the key brain circuits involved in learning, memory, reward, decision-making and behavioral control. This explains the prominence of coexisting diseases among youngsters.
Ensure comprehensive treatment for coexisting disorders
The frequent use of marijuana during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychosis during adulthood. Moreover, untreated conduct disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases vulnerability to substance abuse. Therefore, it is essential to start effective interventions like appropriate screening measures right from adolescence.
As mentioned above, one of the main barriers to the effective diagnosis and treatment of comorbid diseases is the presence of persistent and severe symptoms that become resistant to treatment. Therefore, it is important to identify an effective treatment for all kinds of clinical settings.
Dual diagnosis can be treated
One of the most promising treatments for dual diagnosis as identified by experts based on the successful outcomes is behavioral treatment. Besides this, a number of experts believe that a broad spectrum of diagnosis and concurrent therapy ensure better results.
If you or your loved one is suffering from any form of dual diagnosis or coexisting disorders, contact the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 to access more information on dual diagnosis treatment in California. Alternatively, you can chat online with our experts to find state-of-the-art dual diagnosis treatment centers in California.