Treating Mood Disorders and Addiction with Arizona Dual Diagnosis
The number of people battling addiction in the United States is at an alarming high. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 19.7 American adults battled a substance use addiction just in the year 2017 alone. To complicate matters, many individuals have also been diagnosed with mood disorders, a phenomenon that has been linked to an increased risk for substance addiction. From depression to anxiety to bipolar disorder, mental health disorders have a two-way effect when it comes to substance addiction. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that treating co-occurring disorders simultaneously is the best chance at recovery.
Many times, people suffering from mood disorders may turn to drugs or alcohol to manage their symptoms then quickly find themselves addicted. Research backs up the assertion that mental disorders and substance use are connected. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicated that those diagnosed with mental disorders are twice as likely to have a substance use disorder compared to those who haven’t been diagnosed with a mental disorder. The term for individuals who have a mental disorder coupled with a substance use disorder is comorbidity.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a mood disorder is defined as a ‘diagnosable mental health disorder for which treatment is recommended.’ Though this is a very general definition of mood disorders, it covers well-known disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
In the past, people suffering from both substance use disorders and mood disorders were treated with methods that didn’t fully address every issue. For example, if a person was diagnosed with anxiety, they would receive treatment for that only and the person would have to seek treatment for their substance use disorder separately. This approach was not effective, and over time, research demonstrated that for the greatest chance of long-term recovery, treating both disorders simultaneously was infinitely more effective. For this reason, Arizona dual diagnosis centers have started to shift their treatment modalities to consider the whole person, including any mental disorders, for a comprehensive approach.
The Connection Between Mood Disorders and Substance Abuse
Over the last decade, research has demonstrated a strong correlation between substance abuse and mood disorders. According to a study published in the Addiction Science & Clinical Practice journal, for people who were diagnosed with a mental health disorder, over 30 percent also had a substance use disorder. Even more interesting, for study participants who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the rate of co-occurring substance use disorders rose to 56 percent.
Mood disorders, like bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and major depressive disorder (MDD), affect up to 20 percent of the United States population according to data from Mental Health America. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), anxiety is the most common mood disorder and its connection to substance use is evident. In fact, research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) revealed that anxiety and substance use are often dependent on each other. Specifically, anxiety and substance use disorders as they progress, become more enmeshed and each disorder makes it difficult to resolve the other. NCBI identified three pathways of comorbidity, including:
- Self-medication pathway: Self-medicating for diagnosed and undiagnosed anxiety creates a pathway to addiction.
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder pathway: The presence of a substance use disorder opens the door to the development of an anxiety disorder.
- A third variable pathway: This pathway to comorbidity is based on genetic predisposition or increased risk factors for developing an anxiety disorder.
The path from anxiety to addiction and vice versa is not completely understood, but the connection is apparent. For this reason, treating both disorders at the same time has proven to be more effective for treatment and recovery.
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Comorbidity – The Underlying Causes
What causes comorbidity? Aside from research that identifies a definite link between mental disorders and substance use, there are also some more generalized underlying causes for the connection. For those with mental health disorders, the symptoms often drive them to seek relief – both in the form of prescribed drugs as well as illegal substances. Since mood disorders, by nature, alter a person’s disposition, the drive to ‘feel normal’ becomes intense. For example, when a person has anxiety, they are often inundated with feelings of restlessness, being overwhelmed and even depression. The person then seeks out drugs or alcohol to alleviate these symptoms.
On the flip side, for those who develop a substance addiction first, mood disorders can show up later. Although a lot of environmental factors contribute to the development of mood disorders, the use and abuse of drugs and/or alcohol cause profound changes in brain chemistry. Not only do substances affect brain chemistry, but people who are diagnosed with mood disorders are more vulnerable to the negative effects of drugs or alcohol.
One reason for the development of a mood disorder after the onset of a substance use disorder is a predisposition. If a person has biological factors, like a family history of mood disorders, the use of mood-altering drugs or alcohol can activate the symptoms of mood disorders. The use of drugs or alcohol to alleviate symptoms thus creates a vicious cycle of addiction and self-medication.
Comprehensive Treatment for Comorbidity
The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) states that dual diagnosis treatment should be structured to address all of a person’s disorders. NAMI states that treatments should be customized to a person’s specific needs and risk factors, treating both disorders at the same time. Aside from a personalized treatment modality, NAMI recommends inpatient treatment over outpatient treatment. Though the latter can be effective in some cases, inpatient treatment allows for a more tailored approach and lowers the risk for relapse. A comprehensive aftercare program is also recommended.
Research compiled by NIDA indicates that a dual diagnosis integrated treatment approach is the best way to treat comorbidity compared to the old model that treated each problem separately. Modern treatment for co-occurring disorders includes cognitive behavioral therapy, which includes transforming non-productive thoughts and behaviors, developing effective coping strategies, and encouraging active participating in the recovery process.
Finding a treatment facility specializing in the treatment of co-occurring disorders is essential for those dealing with both a mood disorder and a substance use disorder. As Arizona dual diagnosis specialists, Springboard Recovery focuses on helping people navigate medically-supervised detox, recovery, and aftercare. With comprehensive treatment options that are designed to treat the whole person, the professionals at Springboard Recovery work to create positive and long-lasting change.
If you or a loved one is has been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, contact the addiction and recovery experts at Springboard Recovery to get started on the road to recovery.