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Treat Addiction and Mental Illness Together: Canadian Report

By HERWriter
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Approximately 15 to 20 percent of those suffering from some form of mental illness are also dealing with a substance abuse issue. On the flip side, a report released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse reveals that more than 50 percent of people who seek help for substance abuse also have mental illness issues.

Traditionally, medical and mental health professionals have addressed either the addiction, or the mental health condition, never the two simultaneously. Where there is such a prevalence of “concurrent disorders”, it makes sense for medical treatment to deal with both aspects.

Concurrent Disorder Statistics

“…[T]he risk of having an addiction is two to five times greater in people with anxiety problems compared to the general population…People with schizophrenia are almost five times more likely to have substance abuse problems” (www.cbc.ca).

“Use of drugs or alcohol can ‘hasten the onset of psychotic disorders, worsen both the frequent relapses and crises, placing undue strain on the health-care system and its professionals,' Rita Notarandrea the centre’s deputy chief executive officer, says in a release” (www.cbc.ca).

- “Among people who have had an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, 24% will have a substance use disorder in their lifetime.

- Among people who have had major depression in their lifetime, 27% will have a substance use disorder in their lifetime.

- Among people who have had schizophrenia in their lifetime, 47% will have a substance use disorder in their lifetime.

- Among people who have had bipolar disorder in their lifetime, 56% will have a substance use disorder in their lifetime…” (www.cnsaap.ca).

What is a Concurrent Disorder?

“A concurrent disorder refers to a combination of both substance use and mental health problems experienced by an individual….” (www.cnsaap.ca). Other terms include co-occurring disorder, comorbid disorder, dual disorder, or mentally ill chemical addiction. It is possible for a person to suffer multiple substance use and mental health issues at the same time.

Examples of concurrent disorders include:

- Anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder and heroin dependence
- Anti-social disorder and cocaine dependence
- Depression and dependence on sleeping pills
- Bipolar disorder and cannabis abuse (www.cnsaap.ca).

According to the American Quadrant model, the method and extent of treatment will depend on the severity and type of disorders a patient presents with and can include a combination of primary medical care and specialized addiction and mental health services. The objective of treatment is to treat the mental health issues and substance abuse issues with a view towards minimizing the damage or harm a person can inflict on him or herself.

Treating both mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse together means a brighter future for sufferers, with more potential to live a productive life.

Sources: www.cbc.ca; www.ccsa.ca (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse); www.cnsaap.ca (Canadian Network of Substance Abuse and Allied Professionals)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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