A Better Today

Substance Abuse &
Co-occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

A Better Today’s approach to drug and alcohol treatment offers client-focused care from qualified professionals. Every one of our therapists is either master’s level or a psychologist. Having qualified professionals gives A Better Today the experience and ability to provide a more complete diagnosis for patients with co-occurring disorders. This high level of care sets ABT’s rehabilitation center apart from other treatment facilities because our level of treatment focuses on the complete p co-occurring disorders, resulting in a greater chance for continued recovery after the individual leaves treatment.

Alcohol and drug addiction can fill a person’s mind with negative self-images and destructive thoughts. Patients struggling with addiction tend to think it is impossible for them to be happy in recovery; they believe they will be miserable for the rest of their lives and that the only way to deaden their pain is with alcohol or drugs. Having a co-occurring disorder only serves to reinforce these thoughts.

Imagine trying to cross a raging river, the water beating against you, your own self-doubts troubling you, uncertain if you will be swept away at any moment. This is what it feels like trying to overcome a substance use addiction. Now imagine that your pockets are filled with heavy rocks as you try to cross that raging river, every step weighing you down, and the overwhelming feeling that the journey is impossible and out of your reach. This is what it feels like trying to recover from a substance use disorder when you also suffer from a co-occurring disorder.

A Better Today understands the difficulty for someone struggling with both a mental health disorder like major depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder, and suffers from a substance abuse disorder such as heroin or alcohol addiction. Any treatment that does not address both the mental health disorder and substance abuse addiction, handicaps the individual’s long-term recovery.

Empowering Clients with Knowledge

Ron Fritz is a co-occurring disorder therapist that knows how important saving lives and healing families is to A Better Today. Educating parents and clients about dual diagnosis and substance abuse is his passion when it comes to providing quality care.

Check out Ron Fritz’s article regarding the importance of client-focused care in an individualized treatment plan and how that effects those who struggle with a co-occurring disorder when they enter drug & alcohol treatment.

22% of mental health cases also have substance abuse disorders associated or contributing to the severity of the problem.

What are Co-occurring Disorders & What Does It Look Like in Drug and Alcohol Treatment?

Co-occurring disorders is defined as a patient having both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder. Once called a “Dual Diagnosis,” Co-occurring disorders were given their own label to refer specifically to a substance abuse and a mental health disorder.

A Better Today understands that individuals who suffer from an undiagnosed mental health disorder, often develop a dependency on substances like heroin, alcohol, and/or marijuana to cope with the symptoms of their mental health disorders. (i.e. PTSD, Major depression, or anxiety).

This destructive behavior of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol may appear to allow the individual to feel normal or cope with life’s hardships. What appears at first like a cure to his or her problems, turns into a trap that enslaves the person to addiction.

ABT’s approach to alcohol and drug treatment offers quality levels of care that result in long-term sobriety, by offering co-occurring treatment that addresses the mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder simultaneously. A Better Today’s treatment center to substance abuse treatment is client-focused with comprehensive treatment that properly evaluates each client for co-occurring disorders.

The Challenges Associated with Properly Treating Co-occurring Disorders and Substance Abuse Disorders

One challenge with having co-occurring disorders is finding a qualified therapist who knows how to treat both disorders. There are mental health professionals and there are addiction professionals, and rarely do they talk to each other when providing care for the client. Currently, there is a split between the mental health and addiction fields, and professionals who practice co-occurring therapy are stuck somewhere in between, seeing the need for treating both disorders.

The second challenge with having co-occurring disorders is the stigma associated with mental illness. Although acceptance of addiction as a treatable disease has come a long way, many people still have a negative opinion of mental health disorders. This may cause the patient with a co-occurring disorder to fail to receive the necessary treatment from their rehabilitation center he or she needs to successfully maintain sobriety.

The biggest challenge for A Better Today is the knowledge that individuals with co-occurring disorders are more likely to relapse than someone who only suffers from a substance use disorder. This is why we believe it is essential that a patient with co-occurring disorders receive treatment for both the substance abuse disorder and the mental health disorder. This maximizes the chances for the patient to successfully maintain their sobriety in recovery.

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A Better Today’s approach to drug and alcohol treatment utilizes masters level therapists to properly diagnosis for co-occurring disorders.

How Does ABT Provide Treatment that Addresses Both Co-occurring Disorders and Substance Abuse That Other Centers Do Not?

There is no all-encompassing manual or proper dosage for the right type of treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Substance abuse addiction effects each client differently attesting the need for individualized treatment programs. This individualized care provided but a drug and alcohol treatment facility must consider the mental health of the client and the substance abuse disorder. Adopting a client-focused treatment program that is tailored to the client’s needs will encourage long term recovery.

This approach requires a qualified therapist to properly diagnosis each client for co-occurring disorders to properly evaluate the root of their addiction. This is where the first challenge is prevalent across other treatment centers. Having a separation in treatment of mental health and addiction fields therapists does the client a disservice.

A Better Today is a licensed co-occurring facility with master’s level therapist to offer the treatment that co-occurring disorders client’s need. We heal the whole person, not just their addiction, because we care about the person’s quality of life from the moment they walk through our door.

The Science Behind Co-occurring Disorders & the Addicted Brain

Co-occurring disorders are far more common than most people realize. Many mental health disorders are the result of deficiencies of chemicals in the brain. Important chemicals for proper brain function, like serotonin and dopamine, are disrupted causing an unhealthy expression ultimately effecting their perceptions of their own quality of life. For examples, serotonin is responsible for the individual’s overall well-being and mood regulation, and dopamine is responsible for the pleasure and happiness the person would feel through-out their day to day. A disruption in those chemicals effect the quality of life and how they cope with these symptoms.

Addictive substances such as alcohol, heroin, and cocaine produce either one or both of these brain chemicals. It is common for someone with a mental health disorder to self-medicate by using addictive substances because these drugs lessen the symptoms brought on by the imbalance associated with the mental health disorder.

Many addictive substances can lead to mental health conditions. Sometimes these conditions are temporary, sometimes they become permanent. The most common co-occurring mental health issues among addicts and alcoholics are mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and psychotic disorders.

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Only 14% of individuals with a co-occurring disorder receive treatment addressing both their substance abuse and mental health issues.

Common Anxiety and Mood Disorders Associated with Substance Abuse Addictions and Co-occurring Disorders

Common mood disorders include Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar disorders, Persistent Depressive Disorder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mood disorders are caused by a deficiency of serotonin in the brain. Someone struggling with this type of mood disorders have trouble feeling right about themselves, the direction of their life, and their ability to handle stressful life situations. Ironically, Alcohol, Opiates, Marijuana, and Benzodiazepines all cause the brain to make more serotonin. When someone with a mood disorder uses one of these drugs, they start to feel normal and their brain quickly makes the link that the individual needs this to function and be normal. Again, his behavior, unbeknownst to the individual, encourages self-medicating and later a destructive addiction that could rob them of their goals and aspirations.

Common anxiety disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder therapist. Anxiety Disorders are all caused by a deficiency of Dopamine in the brain. Someone with an anxiety disorder feels an impending sense of urgency or fear that something bad is going to happen causing a restless and uneasily feeling through-out their day to day. Alcohol, Opiates, Marijuana, Benzodiazepines, Cocaine, and Methamphetamines all cause the brain to make more dopamine. When someone with an anxiety disorder self-medicates with one of these drugs, they start to feel a sense of relaxation, relief and contentment with their current direction in life.

Psychotic disorders include Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder are less common but still present in co-occurring disorders and substance abuse disorders. These types of disorders are caused by excessive amounts of dopamine in the brain. Since most drugs produce dopamine, an excessive amount can produce psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. The more dopamine the drug produces, the more likely it is to produce those symptoms pf psychosis. Flooding the brain with chemicals like dopamine and serotonin can have long lasting negative effects on the way the body functions.

Recognizing and Diagnosing Co-occurring Disorders

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In the case of co-occurring disorders and substance abuse disorders, either way can be true. Because the two are so closely intertwined it is hard to determine if the mental disorders came first, i.e. childhood trauma, or the tragic events commonly associated with drug and alcohol abuse sparked the mental disorder to manifest, i.e. prostitution for dope.

Sometimes the addiction just looks like a mental health problem further pushing the needed for qualified therapists. One of the first things a co-occurring disorder therapist tries to do is determine whether any mental health symptoms are drug-induced. Several drugs, such as alcohol, cocaine, THC, methamphetamines, and LSD, can cause depression, anxiety, and psychosis. The only way to determine if these symptoms are drug-induced is for the individual to remain clean long enough to see if the symptoms subside.

A qualified therapist needs to be familiar with both substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders to be competent in making a co-occurring diagnosis that benefits the client long term. When a co-occurring diagnosis is made, the therapist must include a course of treatment that addresses both mental health and substance abuse tailoring their treatment plan and education to promote long lasting recovery.

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65% of recovering addicts have a co-occurring disorder and a substance abuse disorder.

Effectively Treating Co-occurring Disorders

Drug and alcohol abuse treatment is typically individualized and addresses the client’s reasons for using. When a client is struggling with co-occurring disorders and a substance abuse addiction, often the mental health disorder convinces the individual that their drug abuse is necessary for managing the symptoms associated with the mental health disorder.

Only by simultaneously treating both, can the person’s perceived need for using be removed and the person have a fair chance at long lasting recovery. To further explain the situation, if the individual’s mental health disorder is not addressed, the person is more likely to relapse on his or her drug of choice in the future.

When someone enters drug and alcohol rehab, they are provided a treatment plan as a tool to address the individual’s concerns. When those concerns include mental health issues the person’s treatment plan must reflect how these issues will also be addressed. A Better Today’s concept of successful treatment is that the quality of our client’s life improves due to their path in recovery. We offer individualized treatment plans at our rehabilitation center that addresses both co-occurring disorders and substance abuse addictions to provide the client with long lasting recovery and an improvement to their quality of life.

Aftercare for Co-occurring Disorders and Substance Abuse Addictions

When a client with co-occurring disorders completes a drug and alcohol treatment program, that person’s road to recovery doesn’t end. Substance abuse and mental health disorders cannot be cured with a pill, the individual will have to overcome triggers to use and abuse every day of their life. An effective drug and alcohol treatment will provide the client with tools or healthy coping mechanisms that they can use through-out their life in recovery. Strong support systems for aftercare is a great example.

Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics, Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery are available to anyone with a substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders. Additionally, groups such as Double Trouble Recovery and Dual Diagnosis Anonymous offer additional support specifically for someone with co-occurring disorders.

The individual should also seek professional help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health therapist to ensure that their mental disorder is managed and the client has confidence in themselves to manage both their substance abuse addiction and co-occurring disorders.  This professional should have experience working with co-occurring disorders, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about the professional’s experience and credentials.

A psychiatrist can prescribe medication, whereas a psychologist cannot. Psychologists deal more with psychotherapy. A mental health therapist can do neither, however can offer counseling for daily and emotional problems. Supporting someone with co-occurring disorders means being aware of both problems and how they relate to each other.

We invite you to tour our facilities to see where your brighter future begins.

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