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Why Integrated Treatment with Co-Occurring Disorders is Essential

The national institute of health estimates that half of the patients who are in abuse rehabilitation centers also struggle with mental health problems in addition to their addiction. In the past, treatment centers which deal with these problems have always looked at them as separate entities, and there were no programs which involved dealing with the co-occurring disorders. As a result, patients ended up with an increased risk of poor compliance with medication, relapses, violence and even suicide attempts. Studies that have been conducted in recent years show that patients who receive integrated medication which involves behavioral therapy and other related psychosocial interventions have a higher chance of beating addiction than those who just go to the regular old school rehab.

The Components of An Effective Integrated Approach Program

There are certain criteria that a certain substance abuse and rehabilitation program must meet for it to qualify as an integrated approach:

  • A multidisciplinary team will be involved. This includes rehab experts and mental health experts.
  • The patients will get stage-wise interventions with comprehensive access to the services.
  • There are motivational interventions and participation in self-help groups.
  • Pharmacological treatments and interventions whose aim is to improve health are also common.


Dual diagnosis 

The treatment starts with a diagnosis. The diagnosis comes after the patient admits that they have a substance abuse problem. It is good that most of the substance abuse therapists are now asking the right questions which lead up to a dual diagnosis. It is now quite standard to have the practitioners asking about a patient’s mental and emotional health when they are approached for a solution to substance abuse. When it is established that substance abuse is coupled with an emotional health disorder, practitioners come up with an integrated treatment program which does not separate the addiction from the mental health issue.

Why Dual Diagnosis Is Important

Statistics show that people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are five times more likely to have substance abuse problems than their mentally healthy counterparts. 37 percent of people who abuse alcohol and 53 percent of people who abuse other drugs also suffer from a co-occurring mental condition. These statistics show that mental health issues cannot be ignored when offering treatment for substance abuse. Other mental health issues which co-occur with substance abuse include anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality disorder and major depression. These people normally abuse drugs like alcohol, opiates, nicotine, prescription drugs, sedatives, hallucinogens and stimulants. With close to ten million Americans struggling with co-occurring disorders, according to SAMHSA, it is important to adopt an integrated approach in treatment.

Benefit of An Integrated Approach 

It is essential to note that when a patient has these two co-occurring disorders, and one is left untreated, it will hamper any progress that would be made with the other one. Also, in most cases, the two conditions end up being related to each other in complex ways and treating them together gives the health care practitioners insights on how to handle both on a day to day basis. In addition to these benefits to the patient, the society benefits in the following ways:

  • Reduction of arrests and incarcerations among the patients.
  • Reduced rates of hospitalization over substance abuse or mental health episodes.
  • Fewer service costs and reduced instances where services are duplicated.


Patients have also been proven to increase their ability to afford and maintain independent living, stable housing, improved quality of life and achievement of continuity of care.

The Treatment Process Followed

There are a number of steps that are followed in the addiction treatment process for people who have received a dual diagnosis. The steps include:

  • Encouraging the patient to get psyche for the treatment process.
  • Identifying how severe the addiction process.
  • Offering rehabilitation and psychotherapy sessions which are appropriately intense to the patient.
  • Providing follow up support after the main treatment and giving referrals to community-based support groups that the patient can count on as they recover.


This approach is, therefore, a better way of dealing with substance abuse than the traditional setup where the two were dealt with as separate entities. The evidence clearly indicates that patients will gain more from an integrated treatment approach than when they deal with these two issues separately, which means that the program is worth a try.


About the Author

Ruben Lopez is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for addiction treatment. He is committed to helping those who are in recovery, and he occasionally writes for The Recovery Village.

A New Theory of Addiction

For a long time, far too long, the dialogue surrounding addiction has been dangerously inaccurate. The belief that the central cause of addiction is the addictive substance itself has influenced the way we treat individuals struggling with addictions, the type of legislation we create to regulate drug use, and often the way we talk to children about drug and alcohol use.

But recent research has opened the door to a new way of thinking about addictions. Studies of both rats and human beings show that what matters more isn’t access to addictive substances, but the amount of support and depth of connection felt by individual people.

Human beings are social creatures, and when we are suffering we rely on connection with other creatures to help us through. We thrive on emotional and social support. However, when we are not receiving that support, when we are isolated or traumatized, we seek that connection wherever we can find it. Substance abuse is just one example of how we can build that connection with something other than a fellow human being.

What we need to do, as individuals and as a society, is focus on building a strong support base for ourselves for those who are struggling. We know that groups such as AA can provide that support for those already struggling with addictions, as can families, friends, and therapists. But we must also begin to provide support and connection to people before they begin to look for those bonds elsewhere – the solution can also be the method of prevention.

Watch the video linked below for more information:


“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

Tammy Benwell

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