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How Do Co-Occurring Disorders Impact Substance Use?

Substance use is a complicated, complex, layered subject and requires detox. Many factors can increase an individual’s risk of using alcohol and other drugs as well as developing an addiction. Yet, one of the biggest influences is the presence of co-occurring disorders. Before we discuss how co-occurring disorders impact substance use, we need to cover the basics.

What Are Co-occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders are defined as the presence of two or more conditions that influence one another. An unfortunately common example of co-occurring disorders is someone struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health disorder. Moreover, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that the most common mental diagnoses that co-occur along with substance use include:

The main reason why people with co-occurring disorders often turn to alcohol and other drug use is to attempt to self-medicate their symptoms and distress. If someone is constantly feeling internal chaos, pain, or discomfort, they may seek out substance use to try and temporarily numb their symptoms. Although some may perceive substance use to help them feel “better,” in reality, it’s actually making everything worse.

Why Do People Use Drugs to Begin With?

NIDA states that there are a few common reasons why people initially engage with alcohol and other drugs. These reasons are often personal and vary for each person, but generally, people use drugs to:

Further, NIDA confirms, “When they first use a drug, people may perceive what seem to be positive effects. They also may believe they can control their use.” Yet, “Over time, if drug use continues, other pleasurable activities become less pleasurable, and the person has to take the drug just to feel ‘normal.’”

This is why it’s so important to treat patients with the whole-person care approach. Whole-person care considers the patient’s entire history and how it may be the driving force behind unhealthy behaviors and patterns. It respects the trauma and hardships the patient has endured and works to heal substance use and other mental health disorders at their root cause. Moreover, this is the most effective way to treat substance use disorder (SUD) – treating substance use as a symptom of something deeper.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

The good news is that co-occurring disorders are treatable. That being said, treatment should only be done by licensed professionals who have experience dealing with the complexities that are intertwined with substance use and co-occurring disorders. The type of approaches used in treatment will depend on factors, such as the patient’s:

Likewise, the patient’s care team will be the ones that determine what the best approach is for their patient. Sometimes this may involve trying multiple treatments that complement each other to see which treatments are most effective.

Using Evidence-Based Techniques

Evidence-based techniques are well-researched approaches that have been deemed effective in treating various conditions and symptoms. While each person’s treatment plan will look unique according to their personal needs and goals for healing, some common evidence-based treatment options can be used for multiple diagnoses. Commonly used techniques include:

Again, it’s important to know that not every single approach will be effective right away. Some of them may take longer than others, while others may not work at all. Part of healing is recognizing that it will take patience, flexibility, and resilience. A patient’s care team will work with them to determine how they can achieve their desired health and goals.

Innovative Approaches for Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Beyond offering the standard evidence-based approaches, some treatment centers, like Sage Recovery, are delighted to offer innovative approaches. Again, every treatment center’s treatment options will vary based on their clinician’s expertise and availability of resources.

For example, here at Sage Recovery, we provide the following innovative approaches to treatment:

We pride ourselves on being able to offer customizable treatment plans, as we fully believe there are multiple pathways to healing. That’s why we offer so many different treatment techniques – we want our clients to find the healing process that works best for them. Likewise, we want our clients to know that there is hope for healing and recovery, no matter how complicated it may seem. It’s never too late to get help and heal healthily from the hard things one has been through.

Treating co-occurring disorders in a healthy way may feel intimidating, but the good news is it doesn’t have to be done alone. Here at Sage Recovery, we’re extensively trained to treat co-occurring disorders while also providing trauma-informed care. This ensures that you will get the best care possible, while also being treated with dignity and respect as you heal. Our masters-level clinicians are experts in their field and know how to help people heal healthily. No matter what you’re dealing with, no matter how heavy it may feel, you don’t have to go through it alone. We are happy to walk alongside you the whole way. Reach out to us at (512) 306-1394 when you’re ready to heal.