Tragically, mental illness and addiction are too often found together, and the treatment of either is complicated and prolonged due to the effects of the other condition. Sometimes it's assumed that the behavioral and emotive or affective symptoms are merely a symptom of the drug abuse, and it's not until weeks into rehab, when the symptoms don't dissipate, that the coresponsding mental health condition is diagnosed. However it occurs, it's a tough one, but with co occurring mental health deficits and addiction, the stakes of abuse are even greater than normal, and it’s imperative than anyone suffering a concurrent addiction and mental illness get treatment right away.
The biggest problem with concurrent addiction and mental illness is that both problems tend to exacerbate the severity of the other. A mild depression, controllable with medications, can become severe under a regime of illicit drug self medication, and the depths of depression can compel ever greater drug abuse to ease the pain of the symptoms. Additionally, a lot of the medications used to treat mental conditions are rendered less effective or even ineffective when taken with alcohol or other drugs, and so even if the mental condition has been diagnosed, and is undergoing treatment, the concurrent abuse of alcohol or drugs reduces the effectiveness of otherwise very sound medical therapies.
The stakes are great, and addiction and mental illness just do not mix. If a loved one is suffering a concurrent problem, you need to get them the help they need, and you need to get it fast. But what type of treatment is appropriate for concurrent addiction and mental health occurrence?
The most appropriate treatment will depend on the relative severity of the dual presenting condition. If at the time of treatment the mental health deficit is more severe than the substance abuse, then a psychiatric facility that can stabilize the psychiatric condition may be required, and if the addiction is more severe, and is the primary cause of the severity of the mental health concern, then often a residential rehab program, and a period of enforced sobriety, is all that is required.
When considering the most appropriate facility, it’s wise to include all medical professionals and case workers currently involved in the care and diagnosis of the patient for their recommendations. You may need to yield to the advice of professionals more knowledgeable than yourself in the interest of arranging appropriate treatment. You will want to ensure that whatever facility the person is sent to, it is staffed with the necessary psychiatric professionals that will be needed for ongoing care and evaluations as the rehab progresses.
Rehab for concurrent disorder sufferers tends to take a little longer, but it can and does work. A period of time away from abuse, fully medicated, and learning the strategies needed to stay abuse free is often all that is needed to better the emotional and mental health of the patient, and break the cycle of self medication and ever greater abuse.
Patience and empathy are needed, and the patient needs the love and support of their family and friends. If a loved one is abusing, and is either diagnosed with a concurrent mental condition, or you suspect an undiagnosed condition, make every effort to get that person the help they need, and rescue them from the downward spiral that concurrent addiction always becomes.
Psychiatric medications and therapies are very effective, and with ongoing treatment and medications compliance, the odds of a full recovery are great.
Page last updated Sep 11, 2010