Co-occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Co-occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

I recently came across an interesting article from the Ohio State University Department of Family Medicine. It speaks to some of the important steps that healthcare staff must take to treat people with co-occurring disorders. Cooccurring disorders are other mental illnesses that are experienced by the same person who has a substance use disorder. “Dual diagnosis” used to be the term for this, but the co-occurring disorder is thought to be a better description of the problem. People with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are considered much more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. People with substance use disorder are considered harder to treat for other mental health disorders. It is of paramount importance that people who seek addiction treatment disclose any previous diagnosis or history of mental health problems, as that information is incredibly valuable when it comes to treatment. If you or a loved one is looking for alcoholism or addiction treatment, I write on behalf of one of the best drug rehabs in Florida, and one of the best alcohol rehabs in Florida; please go to for more information.

The article from The Ohio State University authors seems to start out with clear instructions for medical personnel, as the top of the article starts with this quote,

“Consider substance abuse if treatment for mood or anxiety disorders is ineffective. Don’t defer treating a mental health issue until a substance use disorder is resolved.”

The article seems to start by giving guidance to medical professionals who are having trouble treating a patient with mood or anxiety issues. The authors note that nearly 30% of people will have an anxiety issue at some point in life. Substance abuse issues have become common enough in the general population to ask patients about possible substance use disorders if they are not helped by the initial treatments for other mental health issues. They also give clear guidance for anyone who needs immediate help with their mental health. When they say do not defer treatment, it means that the patient should immediately be referred for substance use disorder treatment and should be treated for their co-occurring disorder at the same time. In substance abuse treatment, our professionals know that many patients seeking emergency substance use help will also need help with another mental health problem. All great treatment centers have staff that is professionals and can handle these difficult cases. The best drug rehabs in Florida and around the country have people with years of experience and specialized education in mental health care, on top of their focus on drug and alcohol treatment. It may seem overwhelming to tackle both a substance use disorder and another mental health disorder at the same time, but it is so incredibly common that it is necessary in 2020. People die every day from addiction, and people suffer from and can be endangered by various co-occurring disorders as well. 

In 2017 almost 9 million people in the US had co-occurring disorders, and we know that the number has increased since then. Another unfortunate fact that the study found, is that the DSM-5, the most current version of the diagnostic manual of psychiatric medicine, has areas that seek to measure the seriousness of addiction and other disorders separately, but has no scale for how serious co-occurring disorders might be together. It lists a few well-known symptoms of co-occurring disorders, including “poor overall health”, but the authors believe more is needed. I am quickly realizing that I have more to say on this issue, but I am happy to say that the best drug rehabilitation centers are doing things right, based on this study, and here is how they sum up the current need of most patients and what doctors should do.., 

“It is necessary to treat co-occurring disorders simultaneously. The old idea of deferring treatment of a mental health issue until the substance use disorder is resolved no longer applies. Treating substance use problems without addressing comorbid mental health issues can negatively impact treatment progress and increase the risk for relapse. In a similar way, leaving substance use problems untreated is associated with nonadherence in mental health treatment, poor engagement, and dropout.”

At we do just that. All patients are screened for co-occurring mental health issues on intake, and if you or a loved one is seeking help with substance use disorder, please click on the link I provided or go to our program page for more information on the best drug rehabilitation in Florida. 

By Tim Cannon



“Caring for patients with co-occurring mental health & substance use disorders.” Kristen Rundell, MD; Rupal Oza, MD; Laurie Greco, Ph.D.; Ernesto Ortiz Cruzado, MD. Retrieved from