Finding Hope For Co-Occurring Disorders

By Patrick O’Neil

Life can be very discouraging for those suffering from mental health and addiction.

It can seem impossible finding hope for co-occurring disorders. The majority lose hope and without help their problems feel insurmountable, their future appears bleak, and the idea that there’s actually a solution doesn’t seem even vaguely possible. Many act out in unhealthy behaviors, isolate, and self harm. Their family and friends feel helpless and don’t know what to do as they watch their loved ones fall deeper into their depression, addiction, and despair. 

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, “nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness,” which roughly translates to about 47 million Americans. An estimated 165 million abuse substances and over 9 million have co-occurring mental illness and a substance abuse disorder. Yet according to healthcare writer Lauren Villa, “only 48% received treatment for either their mental health disorder or their addiction,” and “roughly half of the adults with co-occurring disorders did not receive either type of treatment.” 

This staggering discrepancy is not only disheartening but also attests to why the above-mentioned lack of hope persists for those with co-occurring disorders. “It’s not always clear which came first,” writes Dr. David Sack, “but it’s now well-understood that addiction tends to go hand in hand with other disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma. Treating one demands a commitment to treating the other; otherwise a negative outcome is all but certain.

Finding Treatment for co-occuring disorders

Unfortunately, while the prevalence of co-occurring disorders among those seeking substance abuse treatment is high,” continues Ms. Villa, “the number of programs equipped to treat co-occurring conditions may not match the need for this kind of treatment.” A fact that dualdiagnosis.org further agrees with, “Few drug treatment centers specialize in treating complex co-occurring disorders. Nationally, research continues to reveal that people with co-occurring disorders need a specialized form of treatment, referred to as integrated services or dual diagnosis treatment. Mental health treatment and addiction treatment have historically and continue to be separated systems of care.

Looking for a co-occurring treatment program that is inclusive and multi-dimensional, like those at CAST Centers, is important when seeking treatment for co-occurring disorders. “To provide effective help to those with co-occurring disorders” explains Dr. Sack, “the skills and training of substance abuse counselors must expand. In addition, it’s crucial that fully integrated psychiatric and mental health diagnosis and treatment be provided at every level of addiction care.” 

CAST Alignment Model

CAST Centers’ CAST Alignment Model (CAM) is a “fully integrated psychiatric and mental health” approach that emphasizes looking inward to begin the healing process and has helped numerous people to regain confidence and sobriety in their lives. “You have to address their substance abuse first,” says Mike Rizzo, CAST Centers Clinical Program Director. “Substance abuse can be a symptom of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed before you can identify and work on the mental health issue. Addicts tend to choose an easier softer way, which metaphorically is like running out the backdoor instead of facing the problem head-on. Which in this case means using drugs or alcohol to self medicate. In order for them to get better they have to eliminate the drugs they use to medicate. Then you can start to work on the solution.”  

And this is where the real work begins because the majority of those struggling with co-occurring disorders, especially the ones who have never tried treatment, are more likely to be in denial, erroneously believing that the substances they abuse to treat their mental health work better than any prescription medications, regardless of the consequences, and are leery of therapy. “The addict might not know what the right choice is,” continues Rizzo, “but they do know what the wrong choice is. And that’s what entering treatment is; making a different choice rather than continuing to do what isn’t working.

Finding Hope For Co-Occurring Disorders

[Recovery] means fighting to stay clean while integrating back into community, workplace, and family situations that may not support sobriety,” writes author and social worker Christina Reardon. “Add a mental health condition to the recovery picture, and the challenges are compounded. Not only do individuals with co-occurring disorders battle to stay clean, but they must seek out services for their mental illness, find support groups that cater to their unique needs.” 

In his book Twelve Step Facilitation for the Dually Diagnosed Client, recovery author Joseph Nowinski writes on the importance of community and 12 step fellowships as additional support for those suffering from co-occurring disorders. Among the many people he interviewed one man with co-occurring disorders whole-heartedly agreed, “The Twelve Step program saved my life, and psychotherapy and prescribed medication cannot replace the need for a group, which can become a haven or a home. But together, medicine, medical research, therapy, and self-help offer great hope to those of us who have tried and failed on the separate paths of self-help or treatment.” 

CAST Centers believes that co-occurring treatment and community together are the solution that offers hope to those suffering from co-occurring disorders. “Although recovery from co-occurring disorders is never easy, CAST is committed to helping you find workable solutions. Make the decision today to create a better life for the future. Finding Hope For Co-Occurring Disorders Call now and let us guide you down the path of becoming your best self.

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