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How Does Co-Occurring Treatment Work?

Co-occurring treatment is a more recent term for what was previously referred to as “dual diagnosis” treatment. This classification was used when a patient presented symptoms resulting from a combination of some type of mental illness and some sort of addiction, typically drug or alcohol.

Although many people may not be familiar with the term co-occurring treatment, it’s not a rare circumstance. Studies have shown about 50% of patients with a substance abuse addiction are also suffering from anxiety, depression or some other type of mental illness.

Difficulty Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

In the past, treatment for substance abuse was radically different from mental health treatments and performed in completely separate types of facilities. This often resulted in many patients getting treatment for their mental disorder, while their substance addiction was not even addressed.

The opposite was also a frequent occurrence, with drug addicts or alcoholics getting clean and sober in a rehab center, but discharged with mental health issues that were never uncovered.

One of the problems in treating co-occurring conditions is that sometimes it’s difficult for medical professionals to determine the root cause of some of the symptoms.

For example, with a co-occurring disorder, if a drug-addicted patient is depressed, it’s a challenge to determine whether the depression caused the addiction or the addiction caused the depression.

Why Co-Occurring Treatment Works Best

Many times, regular drug rehab centers are not adequately staffed to handle treatments for co-occurring disorder patients. The best results have been seen using an integrated treatment plan, located within the same facility.

According to research done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a combination of strategies from both addiction as well as psychiatric treatments is useful in lowering the relapse rate of rehab graduates. The research also suggests long-term abstinence is more likely and suicide attempts are reduced using these methods.

Other effective aspects of co-occurring treatment centers include:

  • Medications – more effective when addressing both the mental health issue as well as the substance abuse
  • Group therapy – a stronger support group when made up of patients dealing with co-occurring disorders
  • Recovery plans – higher success rates due to specifically addressing the multiple issues from more than one illness
  • Training for staff members –in facilities offering co-occurring treatments, staff members are given specialized training and are uniquely qualified to deal with co-occurring disorders

Co-Occurring Treatment May Proceed More Slowly

Most people are aware that recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction can take quite some time to be successful. When you include the time and care involved in treating mental illness at the same time, the recovery period can be extended by many months, sometimes even years.

Another factor that can prolong the co-occurring treatment is that the rehabilitation process can only progress at a speed and pace the patient feels comfortable maintaining.

This is important, because if the patient feels the treatment process is too rushed, they may become overwhelmed and resist any recovery attempts.

Help Is Available for Co-Occurring Disorders

As more and more medical professionals are being made aware of the importance of co-occurring treatments, help is more readily available now than ever before.

Even for those who have felt hopeless in the past, it’s absolutely possible to overcome a substance abuse addiction, even while you’re suffering mental or emotional problems. Co-occurring treatment addresses all of these issues.