Co-occurring disorders addiction and mental illness gas meter in spanish


The brain is a complicated and delicate organ. It’s not surprising that alcohol and other drugs can cause symptoms of mental illness. The substances work by changing the way the brain operates. People who use drugs feel buzzed or high because the substances affect chemicals in the brain and the way brain cells communicate with one another.

In response to those changes, the brain adapts to the presence of alcohol and other drugs, increasing the chances that a person will develop a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are types of mental health disorders that are more commonly called addiction.

It’s possible to have more than one mental health disorder. Substance use disorders often co-occur alongside other mental illnesses. More than half of people with substance use disorders also have a mental illness. Sometimes the mental illness comes first. In other people, substance abuse occurs first. In both situations, each disorder amplifies the symptoms of the other.

“A large number of people with substance use disorders also have some psychiatric disorders which may or may not be major,” Dr. Timothy Huckaby, medical director of Orlando Recovery Center, told “A lot of people have underlying depression or underlying anxiety.”

Other common co-occurring disorders include personality disorders, behavior disorders and psychotic disorders. With comprehensive treatment, individuals can recover from addiction and most co-occurring mental health disorders. But failing to address co-occurring disorders during addiction treatment increases the chances of relapse.

The phrases “mental illness,” “mental health disorder” and “mental health issue” are often used synonymously. In its diagnostics manual, the American Psychiatric Association uses the term mental disorder to define mental illnesses, but the organization also recommends using the term mental health challenge.

The American Psychiatric Association defines a mental disorder as: “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.”

Some mental disorders are more common than others. Conditions such as anxiety and depressive disorders, for example, occur more frequently than schizophrenia and psychosis. Each type of mental disorder can range in severity from mild to severe. Developmental Disorders

Comorbidity is a broad term used to denote the existence of multiple physical or mental diseases or disorders. Co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis are specific to substance use disorders and other mental health conditions. Mental Disorders that Co-Occur with Substance Abuse

Any mental health disorder can co-occur alongside substance use disorders. The most common types of co-occurring disorders include mood, anxiety, psychotic, eating, personality and behavioral disorders. Each category includes numerous types of mental disorders that can range in severity.

The symptoms of mental health disorders are similar to the side effects of addiction. Thus, it can be difficult to determine whether a mental illness is caused by substance abuse or vice versa. Reputable addiction treatment centers screen patients for mental illnesses and develop plans for treating co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Why Substance Use and Other Mental Disorders Co-Occur

Mental health disorders increase a person’s risk of using drugs or drinking alcohol. Substance abuse also increases the risk of developing a mental illness. However, it’s difficult to prove that one causes the onset of the other. Scientists are still studying the brain to determine how mental disorders develop, but they have several theories.

“There are likely to be direct links between substance use and the mental health problem,” Mark Ilgen, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Michigan, told “If someone drinks or uses drugs or alcohol heavily, they’re more likely to have mood problems as a result of the substance use. In many cases, they’re more likely to cope with those problems by using other substances. So it’s a cyclical process.”

This misunderstanding causes feelings of shame and fear among people with co-occurring disorders. Many people isolate themselves to avoid embarrassment, or they deny that they need mental health treatment. Stigma in our society also prevents people in need from receiving help. Cultural rejection can prevent individuals with addiction from finding work, maintaining stable housing and providing for themselves.

According to a 2017 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a 2011–2012 national survey found that more than a third of prisoners and nearly half of jail inmates in the United States had a history of mental illness. A separate report found that 59 percent of state prisoners and 63 percent of sentenced jail inmates met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse from 2007 to 2009. Some criminal justice programs, such as drug courts, are trying to end the cycle of recidivism by providing alternatives to incarceration.

Approximately 50 percent of veterans who need mental health treatment seek it, and slightly more than half of those who do receive treatment get adequate care, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. An estimated 70 percent of homeless veterans also have a substance use disorder.

Since the 1980s, the medical community has recognized that co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment. Over the years, the experts in the medical community have used several different terms to describe individuals with co-occurring disorders.

• Levin, F.R. et al. (2015, June). Extended-Release Mixed Amphetamine Salts vs Placebo for Comorbid Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Cocaine Use Disorder. Retrieved from

• National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010, September). Why do drug use disorders often co-occur with other mental illnesses? Retrieved from

• Slack, D. (2017, March 3). Inaccurate VA wait times preclude thousands of vets from getting outside care, probe finds. Retrieved from

• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, September 8). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from

• U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2014, February 12). What are the five major types of anxiety disorders? Retrieved from