How Integrated Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders Works
The prevalence of co-occurring disorders, commonly known as dual diagnosis, runs especially high for people struggling with addiction problems as well as those affected by psychological disorders. According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 50 percent of people diagnosed with psychological disorders also have substance abuse problems.
Dual diagnosis conditions entail a complex mix of symptoms that tend to aggravate the condition overall. Psychological disorders and addiction both stem from chemical imbalances in the brain.
When both disorders are present, the symptoms of one disorder aggravate and worsen the symptoms of the other. In effect, integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders works to lessen symptom severity for both disorders.
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Integrated Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders
Mental illness and addiction form a complex relationship that makes it difficult to distinguish between the two sets of symptoms. Neglecting to treat both conditions together leaves a person open to relapse and a worsening of mental disorder symptoms.
In actuality, mental illness and addiction share many of the same symptoms, some of which include:
- Feelings of helplessness
- Pervasive feelings of sadness
- Muddled thinking processes
Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders places a heavy emphasis on coordinating treatment efforts rather than treating mental illness and addiction as separate conditions. In order to do this, integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders takes a targeted approach in terms of keeping track of how treatments administered for one condition affect the other.
Integrated Treatment Interventions
The types of interventions used in integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders can vary depending on:
- Addiction severity
- Type of psychological disorder(s)
- Severity of symptoms associated with psychological disorder
For these reasons, treatment programs offer a range of interventions, each of which treats a different aspect of dual diagnosis disorder. Types of interventions offered include:
- Intensive psychotherapy
- Medication therapies
- Drug counseling
- Drug education training
- Crisis intervention services
- Education training on mental illness
As each person enters the treatment process with his or her own unique issues and challenges, treatment programs conduct an extensive assessment and evaluation process at the start to identify specific treatment needs.
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People struggling with severe addiction problems and/or severe mental health issues will likely require some form of medication therapy to help restore a normal chemical balance in the brain, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Medications can be used to relieve symptoms of both or either condition depending on symptom severity.
Medications commonly used in integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders include:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Clonidine for addiction treatment
- Methadone for addiction treatment
- Buprenorphine for addiction treatment
Addiction breeds its own thinking patterns and emotional responses in much the same way as a mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety does. In effect, people struggling with co-occurring conditions must contend with the addiction mindset coupled with the destructive belief systems bred by a psychological disorder. For this reason, much of the time spent in integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders involves psychosocial treatment, which entails working through the destructive mindsets that drive dual diagnosis conditions.