Melissa Hall, licensed addiction counselor at Diversus Health, discusses the relationship between substance use disorders and mental health. Learn what Melissa has to say about the biology of substance use and mental health disorders, co-occurring disorders, and effective treatment interventions.
My name is Melissa Hall and I’m a licensed addiction counselor and licensed professional counselor here at Diversus Health, on the substance use disorder team. Mental health disorders and substance use disorders are classified as brain diseases that occur at the neurological level. By understanding this in the biology, we can develop effective treatment interventions which often include counseling and medication.
For those with co-occurring disorders, one or more mental health disorders occur at the same time as one or more substance use disorders and they are interrelated. For example, an individual may meet criteria for major depressive disorder, while also meeting criteria for alcohol use disorder. When both disorders are addressed simultaneously through an integrated treatment approach, clients have a better chance at achieving success in treatment and long-term recovery.
Addiction professionals undergo formal education and training as a requirement for licensure and we are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat co-occurring disorders. Unfortunately, clients with co-occurring disorders may present to treatment facilities that do not have qualified, trained staff and resources to treat the unique needs of clients who are ready to and encouraged to start treatment. As a result, this population is often underserved and may not have adequate opportunities to live healthy, effective lives.
It is estimated that 50-75% of clients receiving treatment for substance use disorders also have another mental health disorder. It is also estimated that 25-50% of psychiatric clients have had or currently have a substance use disorder. Because each person is unique and may endorse varying symptoms when presenting for treatment, one disorder does not always precede the other and present as the primary disorder. For example, a substance use disorder may trigger a mental health disorder and it can also make mental health symptoms more severe. Similarly, a mental health disorder may trigger a substance use disorder and may make it more difficult to achieve sobriety and effective functioning.
It is important to know that substance use disorders can also cause psychiatric symptoms and appear like other mental health disorders. Substance use disorders may also mask other mental health symptoms that may not present fully until the substance use is stopped. Finally, individuals with a mental health disorder are more sensitive on a biological level to psychoactive substances and may be at a greater risk for developing a substance use disorder.
The preferred model of treatment for co-occurring disorders is an integrated model of treatment. An integrated model involves a competent team at the same facility, addressing both substance use disorders and mental health disorders simultaneously. Research shows that this approach results in better treatment outcomes, decreased severity of symptoms, more effective functioning, and long-term recovery, while building a life worth living.
*If you or someone you love is seeking substance use disorder treatment, request an appointment to speak with one of our professional mental health providers at Diversus Health today. If you need immediate assistance, please call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.