Prevalence of Co-Occurring Disorders

Many individuals believe that addiction occurs in a vacuum. It is easy to think that a person starts using drugs or alcohol over time and becomes more dependent on it until it ruins their life. While this is part of the truth, it does not leave room for the complexities of addiction.

Addiction is more complicated than one might think because it often co-occurs with other mental health disorders. The comorbidity between these worsens symptoms and can make it harder for individuals to seek out treatment and be successful in it. By understanding the prevalence of co-occurring disorders and how they impact those struggling with addiction, individuals can better understand the help they need to live a successful life in sobriety.

Defining Comorbidity

Comorbidity, also known as co-occurring disorders, describes when an individual has two or more disorders occurring simultaneously or successively. In the world of addiction, co-occurring disorders describe when a person has one or more mental health disorders alongside a substance use disorder. Symptoms are usually worsened in both disorders as each affects the other, making recovery challenging if both are not addressed.

The Statistics

Co-occurring disorders are more common than most people believe. While it is easy to think that addiction exists in a vacuum, numerous factors can influence it. Mental health disorders are one of the most common influences on substance use. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost half the people that have a mental health disorder will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.

The numbers show that 7.7 million adults in the United States have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders as of 2017. Of the 42.1 million adults with mental health disorders, 18.2% also had a substance use disorder. Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, 37.9% also had a mental health disorder. These numbers show the prevalence of comorbidity, but understanding how it impacts these individuals and why it occurs is also vital.

Why Comorbidity Is So Prevalent

Because of the high numbers of co-occurring disorders in the United States, it is normal to wonder why these disorders co-occur so often. There are various reasons, but the most likely answer is that the risk factors for both are similar. Genetics plays an essential role in increasing a person’s risk of developing a substance use or mental health disorder, and environmental factors can also influence the probability.

However, other reasons can also explain why co-occurring disorders are so prevalent. One is that mental health disorders can often influence the development of substance use disorders. This is also true the other way around, as each makes it more likely for a person to develop the other. Therefore, treatment must address both disorders simultaneously to facilitate a successful recovery. Although, there are barriers to treatment that can make it challenging for a person to find healing.

Barriers to Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Even though a significant number of individuals in the United States struggle with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders, many are unable or do not seek treatment for various reasons. These barriers are unfortunate, as many want to seek treatment but are held back by personal or health-related reasons.

Some of the most commonly reported barriers to treatment from 2017 include:

  • Inability to afford treatment due to no health insurance
  • Insurance did not cover treatment cost
  • Not ready to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • No knowledge of where treatment is available
  • The individual believed they could handle the issue without treatment
  • Fear of being committed to a psychiatric facility
  • No programs treated co-occurring disorders
  • Fear of negative opinions of others
  • Disbelief that treatment would help
  • Did not have time for treatment
  • Worries concerning confidentiality

Finding and Receiving Treatment

Despite the many barriers that bar people from receiving treatment, numerous programs are available that seek to help individuals get the help they need to heal. Community centers and other public programs are creating outreach organizations to help those struggling get the help they need that suits their financial and health requirements.

The most effective treatment for co-occurring disorders addresses both conditions simultaneously. This gives the person a better chance at recovery, as only addressing one or the other leaves room for potential relapse in the future. Addressing both disorders allows the person to manage their symptoms simultaneously for a more successful recovery, allowing them to live a life in sobriety for years to come.

Standard treatment methods for co-occurring disorders include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Contingency management (CM)
  • Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)

The path to treatment can be challenging, but it is worth it when you reclaim your life and heal from addiction and mental health problems.

Co-occurring disorders are significantly prevalent in the United States, but many individuals do not understand what they are. Comorbidity impacts a person’s livelihood because both disorders impact symptoms in one another, making it more challenging to seek treatment and recover. However, treatment is available, and you can find the healing you need to live a successful life in recovery. At the Detox Center of Colorado, we believe in treating co-occurring disorders to help clients develop a strategy for recovery that lasts a lifetime. Once we stabilize our patients after detox, we provide them with comprehensive, supportive, and integrative care to help them regain their footing in recovery and in life. We know that treating mental health disorders allows patients to reach full recovery from substance use disorders, so we tailor our programs to address these issues to promote long-term wellness. Learn more today by calling (303) 952-5035 and start your healing journey now.

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