Co-Occurring Disorder Statistics

As our understanding of drug addiction has grown, we have discovered that drug abuse typically does not exist in isolation. Rather, it is often accompanied by a co-occurring mental health disorderthat acts as a causal or aggravating factor for substance abuse. But just how often do drug addiction and mental health disorders co-occur, and what are the implications for treatment?

Rates of Co-Occurrence

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are over 7.9 million adults living with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in the United States. Overall:

  • Over 30% of all people living with mental illness and over 50% of people with severe mental illness will experience a substance use disorder in their lifetime.
  • Over 30% of people with alcohol addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder, and over 50% of drug abusers are living with a mental illness.

Co-occurrence is more likely between certain types of drug addiction and mental illness. A 2014 studyfunded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that people with severe mental illness were:

  • 4 times more likely to abuse alcohol
  • 3.5 times more likely to abuse marijuana
  • 4.6 times more likely to use other drugs regularly
  • 5.1 times more likely to be daily smokers

Schizophrenia is perhaps the strongest predictor of substance use disorder, with up to 80% of those affected struggling with addiction. However, even people with mild to moderate mental illness are at significantly higher risk for developing a substance abuse disorder, and co-occurring disorders can significantly augment the severity of symptoms. Additionally, up to 80% of women seeking treatment for drug addiction have histories of trauma in the form of physical or sexual assault.

Implications for Treatment

Until relatively recently, addiction and mental health disorders were treated separately, as it was believed that treating both would be too overwhelming to be productive. As our understanding of both addiction and mental illness has grown, however, research has shown that treating both conditions simultaneously, through comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment, actually leads to significantly improved short- and long-term outcomes. This is due to the fact that addiction and mental health disorders don’t simply exist alongside each other, but have a complex and reciprocal relationship that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. That relationship must be fully explored in order to remove the roots of distress and create a strong basis for ongoing healing that minimizes the risk of relapse and provides a foundation for ongoing recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment also helps to clearly define the nature of co-occurring mental health disorders. Clinicians who are not trained in dual diagnosis care are often not equipped to tease out the symptoms of mental health disorders from those of drug abuse or withdrawal, clouding the diagnostic picture and leading to both missed diagnoses and misdiagnosis. By working with a clinical team that specializes in dual addiction treatment and implements strategic psychological assessment, you can be assured of diagnostic clarity and feel confident that your treatment plan is designed to address the full scope of your needs.

If you have any questions about addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer guidance and help you connect with the right resources for your unique situation.