More than half of all adults who struggle with severe mental illness have the added burden of a substance abuse problem, according to Psychology Today. Effective treatment of such “co-occurring disorders” must combine an appropriate form of mental health care with therapy that targets the physiological effects of the substance.
It is also crucial for therapists who engage with these complex layers of pathology to be capable of providing integrated treatment. Family members as well will need an understanding of how the substance chemistry and the mental illness interact together. Below is an introduction to the most common mental health diagnoses that go together with five specific substances.
Cocaine – ADHD
While not a mental illness per se, ADHD interferes with the brain’s executive functions and makes it difficult for a person to accomplish daily goals. Research cited by NIH notes that adult ADHD is particularly noticeable in individuals with cocaine dependency. The majority of the research subjects suffered from the inattentive type of ADHD rather than the hyperactive type.
Alcohol – Depression
This is one of the most frequently encountered problems among people who abuse alcoholism, according to statistics gathered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One quarter to one half of all suicides are linked to alcohol dependency, and the lifetime risk of suicide among alcoholics is 15 percent. This symptom stands out among the collection of symptoms exhibited as co-occurring disorders.
Amphetamines – Acute manic symptoms
Amphetamines are associated with mood disorders in general, especially bipolar disorder. When the amphetamine user’s body is recovering from the effects of the stimulant, there is often a switch to a lethargic, “shut-down,” withdrawn or depressed state.
Opioids – Personality Disorders, Including Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder
These types of psychosis are distinct from one another, but they all have certain characteristics in common: A disregard for the rights and safety of others, a tendency to be deceitful and manipulative, consistent irresponsibility and lack of remorse.
Sedatives – Anxiety Disorders
The symptoms become particularly evident during the withdrawal phases from depressants and sedatives. When people experience anxiety, they re-enter the cycle of sedative abuse in an effort to find relief. This reaction is intensified by the fact that the body may react to withdrawal with elevated blood pressure, “shakes,” hyperactivity, hypervigilance, and general agitation.
Integrated therapy treats chronic substance abuse as a medical issue, while also providing effective therapy for the co-occurring chemical dependency problem. Specific training in integrated therapy is necessary for practitioners to be able to address both sides of the problem with appropriate methods.
The good news in co-occurring disorder treatment is that as each side of the equation is addressed, the symptoms of the other disorder are simultaneously eased.
Substance abuse that is linked to mental illness often shows great improvement when therapy targets the co-occurring psychological disorder. Because of this linkage, integrated therapy offers great promise for bringing relief and healing to individuals with these complex and multi-layered personal struggles.