Originally Published: July 24, 2005 5 a.m.
Dual diagnosis – the occurrence of both a mental illness and substance abuse – is a challenge that West Yavapai Guidance Clinic treatment teams and clients address together daily. Research has indicated that to recover fully, a person with dual diagnosis (also called co-occurring disorder) needs treatment for both problems because focusing on one only does not ensure that the other will go away. To complicate the challenge of successful treatment further, there are increasing occurrences of clients who have a third complicating medical condition, such as Hepatitis C or HIV.
How often do people with serious mental illnesses also experience a co-occurring substance abuse problem?
According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):
Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
Thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs.
What are the consequences of co-occurring serious mental illness and substance abuse?
Persons with a co-occurring disorder have a statistically greater propensity for violence, medication noncompliance, and failure to respond to treatment than persons with just substance abuse or a mental illness. These problems also extend out to these individuals' families, friends and co-workers.
From a general health perspective, having a simultaneous mental illness and a substance abuse disorder frequently leads to overall poorer functioning and a greater chance of relapse.
Individuals with co-occurring disorders are also much more likely to be homeless or jailed. An estimated 50 percent of homeless adults with serious mental illnesses have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. Meanwhile, 16 percent of jail and prison inmates are estimated to have severe mental and substance abuse disorders. Among detainees with mental disorders, 72 percent also have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder.