Co-Occurring Disorders

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), four million adults met the criteria for both serious mental illness and substance dependence and abuse, commonly referred to as Co-Occurring Disorder (COD).

Co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis are terms used for when a person experiences a mental illness and a substance use problem at the same time. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, about half of people living with a severe mental illness are also experiencing a problem with substance abuse.

DMH Mental Health Centers provide integrated treatment programs to address co-occuring disorders. Services are provided by licensed therapists, doctors, and nurses who believe it is important to create an environment where a person can receive effective treatment without judgement. Services include medication management and education, as well as individual, group and family therapies.

Referrals to other agencies and community organizations or hospitals are also made at times. Local mutual support programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are recommended and DMH staff work toward reducing barriers for patients to attend these programs.

SAMSHA facts include:

  • It is estimated that about 17.5 million Americans over the age of 18 (or 8 percent of the adult population) had a serious mental health disorder in the past year. Of these, about 4 million people also struggled with a co-occurring drug or alcohol dependency.
  • In the span of six years, the percentage of patients in drug rehab seeking help for addiction issues who were also diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder increased from 12 percent to 16 percent.
  • Dual Diagnosis patients are very often functional in the workforce. In fact, it is estimated that among those who are employed fulltime, about 10.6 percent dealt with a substance abuse problem, another 10.2 percent struggled with a serious psychological issue, and 2.4 percent were diagnosed with both a mental health issue and a drug abuse problem.
  • Employed men were twice as likely as employed women to have struggled with a drug abuse or addiction issue in the past year (13.2 percent as compared to 6.9 percent), but employed women were almost twice as likely to have dealt with serious mental health issues in the past year (14.2 percent as compared to 7.3 percent).
  • More than 50 percent of those living with a Dual Diagnosis did not receive any medical treatment or psychotherapeutic intervention to help them progress in their recovery.
  • Of the almost 3 million adults employed and living with a Dual Diagnosis, only about 40 percent received any treatment intervention at all for either disorder and less than 5 percent received treatment for both issues.
  • Too often, those living with a Dual Diagnosis receive treatment for only one of their ailments. It is estimated that of the adults living with co-occurring disorders, 34 percent receive mental health treatment, 2 percent enroll in drug rehab, and 12 percent get the help they need for both disorders.
  • More men than women are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, but the percentage of females living with a Dual Diagnosis has increased in recent years. Between 1995 and 2001, the proportion of women admitted into Dual Diagnosis treatment programs increased from 28 percent to 44 percent.
  • In the 1990s, alcohol was the primary drug of choice for more than 50 percent of Dual Diagnosis patients. Since the turn of the millennium, that trend has slowly shifted downward: Alcohol is the primary substance of abuse for 45 percent of Dual Diagnosis patients (down from 51 percent) and 38 percent of all other substance-abusing patients (down from 45 percent).
  • The biggest increase in use for any one substance in the 2000s has been prescription painkillers. About 21 percent of Dual Diagnosis patients are addicted to prescription opiates like OxyContin, Percocet, Lortab and others (up from 13 percent).

Patient Health Information (PHI) is protected by federal and state confidentiality laws including: 45 CFR Part 160 (HIPAA), Section 44-22-100, SC Code (pertaining to SCDMH patients, former patients and persons subject to commitment), and as applicable, 42 CFR Part 2 (Alcohol and Drug Program information). If you are receiving alcohol and drug program services, health professionals may not share any patient health information without the patient's written authorization or a court order.