Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction very often co-occur with other disorders, both medical ailments and mental health disorders. According to Khurshid A. Khurshid, MD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, sleep disorders are issues that very often go hand in hand with substance abuse.
The concerns? There are many. A few include:
- Some patients may initially abuse drugs in order to self-medicate the sleep disorder if they don’t get effective treatment.
- Few medical professionals treat both issues, and physicians who treat sleep disorders may unwittingly exacerbate the problem by prescribing addictive sleep medications.
- Many patients continue to struggle with insomnia after treatment for addiction. It can be a trigger for relapse if they feel the only way to get some sleep is to drink, take prescription medications, or use other drugs.
Co-occurring Substance Abuse and Insomnia
While speaking at the Florida Society of Addiction Medicine annual meeting, Dr. Khurshid brought up the following points:
- Sleep problems are between five and 10 times more likely in patients who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse as compared to their non-drug-abusing peers.
- Certain drug dependencies – particularly alcohol addiction or opiate addiction – can cause sleep disorders like insomnia.
- Post-treatment, sleep disorders that began during addiction can continue for a long period of time.
- Difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep can negate the positive effects of treatment in some patients.
Said Dr. Khurshid: “Doctors need to screen for abuse and dependence of substances when they prescribe sleep medications. And if they prescribe a sleep aid, such as a benzodiazepine, they should do it on a short-term basis, maybe a few weeks, so the patient doesn’t become physiologically dependent.”
Khurshid was advocating for increased education about the issues for doctors who treat patients dealing with a sleep disorder and for addiction treatment specialists.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
No matter which co-occurring disorder is in evidence alongside your addicted loved one’s substance abuse issues, it is important that you identify the issue early on when speaking with counselors at their drug rehab program. Recognition of all problems that may be a trigger for relapse in recovery is important; effective and well-rounded treatment programs can and should be able to address these issues as intensively as the addiction itself. Contact us at Alta Mira today to learn more.