Addiction and mental health issues are real, serious diseases. They often overlap and are referred to as co-occurring disorders. People facing these challenges deserve support and understanding. They deserve the real, effective treatment that leads to long-term health.

Are Co-occurring Disorders Normal?

Mental health graphicPeople facing mental health issues often feel isolated or stigmatized. However anyone struggling with substance abuse, mental illness or a combination of the two is anything but alone. Newsweek reports that 1 in 5 Americans, around 4.5 million adults, suffers from mental illness.1 9.3 million adults, nearly 4 percent of the population, faces a serious mental illness that disrupts everyday life.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 21.6 million, or 8.2 percent of the American population over the age of 12, battled substance abuse or dependence in 2013.2

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports “7.9 million people in the U.S. experience both a mental disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously.”3 One-third of all alcohol users and one-half of drug users also struggle with a mental illness. One-third of those battling mental illness also abuse substances and one-half of those with a serious mental illness abuse substances such as drugs or alcohol.

If someone struggles with co-occurring mental health and addiction concerns, they are not alone. They can find hope in stories of others’ recoveries. They can find recovery for themselves through compassionate, integrated treatment.

Treating Co-occurring Disorders

Mental health and addiction issues co-occur for a variety of reasons. Certain genetic or environmental risk factors can trigger both. Some individuals may self-medicate mental health symptoms with drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse can cause mental illness symptoms to appear for the first time. No matter the reason for co-occurring disorders involving substance abuse, treatment exists. However this treatment has to be specialized to be effective

Substance abuse exacerbates mental illness symptoms and may interfere with medications and treatment for mental health disorders. An undiagnosed mental health disorder can disrupt substance abuse or addiction treatment. Regardless of the reason these disorders co-occur, specialized treatment called integrated treatment typically provides the best results. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration supports and approves the use of integrated treatment. It explains, “People with co-occurring disorders are best served through integrated treatment. With integrated treatment, practitioners can address mental and substance use disorders at the same time, often lowering costs and creating better outcomes.”4 Integrated treatment considers both substance abuse and mental health disorders primary concerns. It treats both simultaneously.

What Does Integrated Treatment Involve?

Integrated treatment combines mental health care and substance abuse counseling and care. It begins with a comprehensive screening and assessment. This helps professionals diagnose the mental health and substance abuse issues an individual faces. It helps them create a comprehensive care plan tailored to the individual’s specific circumstances and needs. Assessments will also be provided throughout the treatment process to ensure that specific needs are still being met. The care plan can be modified to address changing recovery needs. Plans may include psychotherapy, group therapy and other forms of family and individual care. They will be followed by support for long-term recovery.

Psychotherapy for Co-occurring Disorders Involving Substance Abuse

Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is an important aspect of both mental health care and the treatment of a substance abuse disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) addresses emotional and environmental contributors to both mental health symptoms and substance abuse. It also works to modify any and all negative views of the self. It helps patients shift self-destructive behaviors and thoughts into positive ones by teaching practical coping skills and bolstering self-confidence. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry explains that CBT can actually change how the central nervous systems functions. It produces real, tangible changes in mental health and outlook.5

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is another form of psychotherapy related to CBT. DBT focuses on coming to terms with difficult emotions or behaviors. DBT helps individuals find a balance between acceptance and change.

Other Treatment Options for Co-occurring Disorders

Psychotherapy is at the core of most effective treatment programs. However integrated treatment uses more than just one form of care when addressing co-occurring disorders. Exposure therapy may help some individuals facing post-traumatic stress disorder and related issues. Group and individual counseling sessions are a part of both mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Educational opportunities providing insight into both mental illness and substance abuse. Life skills training provides support for long-term success. Family counseling sessions can help repair relationships and provide improved understanding and communication.

Integrated treatment plans may include the use of medications. These are rarely used a first approach to recovery, but they may be important supplemental care for some. They may be needed for mental health management or for relapse prevention. Medications with addictive or habit-forming properties should only be used with extreme care and supervision. An integrated care plan will weigh potential side effects and risks against the benefits of medication-assisted treatment.

Long-Term Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders

Recovery is real and attainable for anyone. The right diagnosis and appropriate integrated care provides immediate healing. Long-term support allows this healing to continue. Integrated treatment programs  connect patients to ongoing therapy resources. Support groups and 12-Step programs offer social support and experiential advice. Alumni events encourage continued sobriety.

Finding the Right Treatment for Mental Health and Addiction Issues

Selecting the right integrated treatment provider is the first step toward a healthy recovery. Black Bear Lodge is a premier treatment facility for co-occurring mental health and substance use issues. Our team of medical professionals is trained in the most current and scientifically-based treatment models. We address all aspects of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. We do so in a serene, private and healing location. Call us to learn more about co-occurring disorders involve substance abuse and your options for moving forward.


1 Bekiempis, Laura. “Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Suffers from Mental Illness Each Year.” Newsweek. 28 Feb. 2014. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

2Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2014. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

3Dual Diagnosis.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. Aug. 2017. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

4Co-Occurring Disorders.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 8 Mar. 2016. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

5 PR, Porto, et al. “Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Change the Brain?” Journal of Neuropsychiatry. Spring 2009. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.