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It is not uncommon to see co-occurring mental illness among those who already struggle with addiction. However, though common, many people remain unaware that they struggle with these comorbidities. As a result, these comorbidities often go undiagnosed and untreated.

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” This is often the issue with impersonal addiction treatment. When an individual is not treated for their addiction with an individualized plan, the chances of missing co-occurring disorders are greatly increased. 

This is a problem because recovery from addiction is about a lot more than stopping the use of substances and alcohol. It is also about getting to the root causes of why an individual is engaging in those behaviors in the first place. Within these root causes often lay the comorbidities of mental illness.

The Phoenix Recovery Center’s mission is to give each of our clients an individualized addiction treatment plan. We have found that beginning with this foundational mission helps us to assess and determine if other co-occurring issues need to be addressed. And yes, they do need to be addressed. Because removing the struggles of addiction often brings comorbidities to the surface, and there is no reward in simply replacing one struggle with another.

Understanding Comorbid Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illnesses

According to a 2020 research report by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, “Many individuals who develop substance use disorders (SUD) are also diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa. Multiple national population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa.” We believe that with a statistic that represents 50% of the population, it’s time to take note.

One of the primary issues regarding the prevalence of comorbid substance use disorders and mental illnesses is that one often overshadows the other. Many people that struggle with active addiction often ignore other signs of mental health as treating them may impede their alcohol or substance use. 

On the other side of co-occurring disorders is that individuals struggling with other mental health disorders may minimize their alcohol or substance use as either harmless or they may even see it as a reasonable solution to their untreated mental health symptoms. This creates a bit of a paradox. Both issues are separate disorders, but they also often negatively affect or exacerbate each other. Treating them properly can be a complex process.

Treating Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Separately

The truth is that neither issues of addiction nor other issues of mental health can be treated if the client is unwilling to be honest. This is detrimental because it delays the treatment of both conditions.

When a client is willing to honestly accept that they need help, it is important to take full advantage of that often short window of time. That is why The Phoenix Recovery Center focuses on individualized assessment and planning for all of our clients. From a concentrated and thorough assessment, our specialists can determine early on if a new client experiences comorbid substance abuse disorder and a mental illness.

From an individualized assessment, we can then go into creating an individualized treatment plan. This treatment plan will focus on rehabilitating the client from their physical addiction while also incorporating clinical evidence-based options to treat their co-occurring issues of mental health.

Treating Addiction and Mental Health in Tandem

Now, while it is important to diagnose specific comorbidities, it is also important to address these comorbidities as they exist concerning one another. They can work in an almost synergistic way to exacerbate each other. This is why they must be treated in tandem as well as bilaterally.

It is also important to understand that certain ways of treating one disorder may create harm or disruption in treating the other. For example, if a client is struggling with a substance use disorder as well as anxiety and depression, it may be wise to avoid potentially addictive medications like benzodiazepines. Again, this highlights the exceptional importance of individualized planning.

Continuing a Treatment Plan for Long-Term Recovery

The good news is that just like individual mental health disorders, comorbidities can be quelled with the right care. However, it is essential to create and follow a treatment plan for long-term recovery.

The truth is that people struggling with the comorbidities of addiction and mental health have to be a little more focused because they now have two potential pitfalls. By relapsing back into active addiction they may exacerbate their co-occurring disorder and create regression or harm. By losing focus on treating their mental health disorder, they may experience side effects that could lead to relapse. It can be seen as a dangerous double-edged sword.

Dr. Maslow also said, “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” The same implication applies to comorbidities, and awareness is key. The good news is that from awareness comes growth, and from growth comes recovery. If you suspect that you, or someone you love, is struggling with addiction or other issues of mental health, support is available. Don’t wait to reach out. You don’t have to struggle anymore. Call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185 for help.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT