According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders also have substance issues. Thirty percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
When an individual has both a mental illness and an addiction, it is called dual diagnosis. Co-occurring disorders require special treatments, which go beyond standard therapy or medication, job and housing assistance, family counseling, even money and relationship management. The treatment is long term.
Unfortunately, persons with a co-occurring disorder have a greater propensity for violence, medication noncompliance, and failure to respond to treatment than those who have only one of these conditions. The consequences of dual diagnosis extend out farther to family, friends, and co-workers. Moreover, statistics show that people with dual diagnosis are much more likely to be homeless or jailed. An estimated 50 percent of homeless adults with serious mental illnesses have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder, and 16% of jail and prison inmates are estimated to have both severe mental and substance abuse disorders. (NAMI).
The latest approach for recovery is called integrated treatment, where the same doctor, or team, treats both disorders at the same time. However, dual diagnosis treatment centers that treat both conditions are far and few between. In the U.S., mental health services tend to be unprepared to deal with patients having both afflictions. Often the conditions are dealt with separately and the patient receives fragmented help.
Families are profoundly affected in a negative way when a loved one has a dual diagnosis. They often ask why people with mental illness have such a high incidence of addictive disorders. Some believe substance abuse could be a form of self-medication for the individual who suffers from a mental disorder, perhaps to ward off anxiety or to escape from the debilitating effects of the illness. Others believe substance abuse, much like mental illness, has its roots in a genetic factor, making certain individuals more susceptible to addiction.
Dual diagnosis is on the rise. We need to find solutions.