Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Addiction and mental health issues usually go together. Someone suffering from an addiction is twice as likely to suffer from at least one more mental health issue; and vice versa. Co-occurring disorders are now a common diagnosis in the medical field; the recognition is somewhat new, but undeniably important. If a person with depression and an addiction to heroin seeks treatment for her depression but leaves the heroin addiction untreated, she may find that her heroin addiction continues to grow worse despite her depression treatment. Further, her depression may not be improving because her treatment program does not address her heroin addiction.

Past Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

For most of the short history of the addiction treatment field, medical professionals only identified and treated one issue at a time; the other would be left unacknowledged. This practice limited the treatments of those suffering from co-occurring disorders, since the two tend to influence each other. Treating only one disorder often causes the other, untreated disorder to worsen.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers began studying the ways that addiction and mental health issues interacted with each other. It’s estimated that between 30 and 40% of all people suffering from a mood or anxiety disorder also have a co-occurring drug addiction. A survey from 1989 suggests a particularly strong connection between mental disorders and smoking addiction: more than 70% of all respondents claimed to have both. Those with an alcohol addiction are two to three times more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder than non-alcoholic respondents.

Future Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

A growing understanding of co-occurring disorders means improved practices for treating those disorders, even individually. It’s called integrated treatment: assessing an individual for the whole spectrum of mental health issues, addiction-related and otherwise. A diagnosis of co-occurring disorders paves way for a holistic treatment plan that allows for rehabilitation from both the addiction and other mental health concerns. Recognizing the presence of co-occurring disorders, how they mix, and what fuels them is crucial for curbing this phenomenon. Some of the biggest questions:

  • What factors affect an individual’s likelihood of developing co-occurring disorders? (Environmental, genetic)
  • Which diagnosis methods are most effective for early identification and intervention?
  • How can medical professionals adapt the treatments for one mental health issue to effectively treat another at the same time?
  • How does one mental health issue affect the development of other co-occurring disorders?


At Oceanfront Recovery, we are bringing men a total treatment solution to help them change the story of their lives. We believe when you can change your story, you can change your life. Immersing men in their environment and community, our long term treatment programs and specialized executive programs help men get back on track to changing their lives, and the world. For information, call us today: 877.279.1777