The Best Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

The Best Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders | >> Click to Read!If we want something bad enough, we’ll find a way to achieve it. But I believe in taking advantage of the resources available to us, especially when that means increasing our chances of accomplishing our goals. And that’s exactly what co-occurring disorders treatment facilities do.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders, previously known as dual diagnoses, refer to two or more disorders that exist at the same time, alongside each other.  The term has more recently broadened, but in the past it generally referred to the presence of both a mental illness and a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are still one of the most common co-occurring disorders alongside bipolar disorder, and mental illness in general. And thus will remain the focus of this blog post.

Can someone with a co-occurring disorder accomplish both mental stability and sobriety by pursuing only traditional treatments? Sure. But it will likely be harder and take longer, ultimately decreasing chances of a successful long-term recovery.

People with mental illnesses are more likely to have substance use disorders, and people who have substance use disorders are more likely to have a mental illnesses. Either can develop first. For example, someone with a mental illness may develop a substance use disorder as a result of self-medicating. And someone may develop psychiatric symptoms as a result of misusing substances. It’s important to note that alcohol and drugs exacerbate mental illness symptoms.


It’s estimated that around 8 million U.S. adults have co-occurring disorders. About 1/3 of all people living with mental illness and about 1/2 living with severe mental illness also have substance use issues. Similarly, about 1/3 of people who abuse alcohol and about 1/2 of people who abuse drugs also have a mental illness.

Co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose due to their complexities. Symptoms overlap and many factors contribute to them (biological, psychological, social). When someone seeks and receives treatment for a mental illness, it’s common for others to go unaddressed. This not only makes an already difficult recovery even more so, it increases risks of hospitalizations, suicide, homelessness, incarceration, and other illnesses.

An integrated approach is most effective in treating co-occurring disorders, as it lowers these risks and increases the chances of long-term mental health recovery and abstinence. This means simultaneously treating both illnesses and giving each the same level of care. While also recognizing that each are long-term, chronic illnesses with high risks of relapse. This requires a treatment team trained in addressing co-occurring disorders.

The integrated approach eliminates treatment barriers and makes for a more seamless rehabilitation process. For example, prescribing psychotropic medication becomes safer when the prescribing doctor is involved in the client’s detox and recovery process.

Patients should be assessed for co-occurring disorders early on in the diagnosing process. It should be routine for doctors to assess substance abuse patients for signs of mental illness and vice versa.

The Most Effective Treatment

The most effective treatment for co-occurring disorders Is intensive inpatient integrated care where both illnesses are treated at the same time and receive the same level of care. Followed by long-term aftercare and support. Inpatient care may include a medical detox, group and individual therapy, and medication management.

Thankfully, treatment options for co-occurring disorders are becoming more prevalent. Though many are pricey, they often take insurance and are willing to work with you along the lines of a sliding payment scale. I almost made the mistake of writing off a facility because it looked too expensive. But I took a chance. And somehow the stars aligned. With the help of my family, my insurance and a sliding payment scale, I was able to attend 41 days at an inpatient co-occurring illnesses rehab facility. And that was the start of my new life.

Obviously, inpatient programs simply are not feasible for everyone. And that’s okay. There are outpatient programs, individual and group therapy, peer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other alternative options.

Everyone’s road to recovery is unique. What matters most is your willingness to make it to where you need to go. Never give up hope. You’re not alone. So ask for help in developing a plan of action. Recovery is possible and it’s waiting for you.

Dual Recovery Resources:

  • Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA): ” …is an independent, nonprofessional, Twelve Step, self-help membership organization for people with a dual diagnosis.” It is for individuals who are chemically dependent in addition to battling a mental illness. 
  • Double Trouble in Recovery: For people living with a dual diagnosis. “(DTR) is a Twelve Step fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problems and help others to recover from their particular addiction(s) and manage their mental disorder(s).”

Other Recovery Resources:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.): A supportive 12-Step program for people recovering from alcohol abuse. Learn more and find a meeting near you.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.): A supportive 12-Step program for people recovering drug abuse. Learn more and find a meeting near you.
  • Al-Anon + Alateen: For those affected by a loved one’s alcohol use. Learn more and find a meeting near you.
  • SMART Recovery: “The SMART Recovery 4-Point Program® helps people recover from all types of addiction and addictive behaviors, including: drug abuse, drug addiction, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, cocaine addiction, prescription drug abuse, sexual addiction, and problem addiction to other substances and activities. SMART Recovery sponsors face-to-face meetings around the world, and daily online meetings. In addition, our online message board and 24/7 chat room are excellent forums to learn about SMART Recovery and obtain addiction recovery support.”

General Support Group Finders:

  • Local Support Group Finder: Find a Support Group in Your Community. For people living with depression and/or bipolar disorder. -via Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
  • Online Support Groups: For people living with depression and/or bipolar disorder. -via Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
  • Mental Health America – Lots of Support Groups.

Need even more Resources? Head to my Mental Health Resources page!

Sources: SAMHSA | NAMI |



  1. Charles Smith

    To anyone with a Dual-Diagnosis please look into Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA). I know people with happy Dual-Recovery for over 30 years. Google: Dual Recovery Anonymous
    On DRA’s website you can print out Dual Recovery Anonymous meeting literature and start your own DRA meeting.

  2. You’re so brave to always be sharing your story, and it’s proof of how necessary it is that those of us dealing with mental illness must speak out. I had no idea what a “co-occurring” illness was. And if we are to advocate, it is so important to know all the facts. I love that your posts are so interesting and educational Krista.

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