Woman holding head with mental health and substance use disorder

Understanding Mental Health and Substance Use

You are bound to encounter the term dual diagnosis when learning about addiction treatment. But why is there so much emphasis on treating mental health and substance use disorders together? We know drugs and mental health problems frequently coincide. Research has shown at least 64% of addicted people are also living with a co-occurring mental health disorder.

Treating substance use and mental health disorders at the same time leads to more positive outcomes. Both types of disorders occur in the mind. They cannot help but influence one another. Neglecting one and treating the other is an incomplete solution at best. In this article, Promises Brazos Valley explores the value of treating co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders at the same time.


Mental Health and Substance Use

If you or someone you love is living with addiction, it’s probably not hard for you to imagine that other mental health challenges are present too. It might not be clear if your son’s eating disorder helped trigger his drug use or your daughter’s drinking led to depression. The nature of the cause-and-effect relationship is best left to the experts to explore.

What you should know is that co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders require dual diagnosis treatment. There are several reasons for this. If an undiagnosed or untreated mental health issue is prompting your loved one to use or drink, identifying and treating the disorder will help protect their recovery. Simply removing the substance from the equation and focusing on addiction alone isn’t enough. Symptoms will return. Triggers will still affect their mood and behavior. Addressing mental health issues helps eliminate potential triggers and improve the security of your recovery.


Chicken or Egg?

It may not be clear which came first, mental health issues or substance use disorder. They may have happened in concert with one another or apart. There may have been no evidence of a mental health disorder prior to drug or alcohol use, which may mean there was no disorder prior to use. For example, your spouse develops situational anxiety as a side effect of trying to conceal her opioid dependence and resulting in financial trouble.

In other cases, substance use can exacerbate a potential problem. Someone who has a family history of depression may not have experienced it themselves, only to see it appear when they develop a drinking problem. The interplay between drugs and mental health problems is complex. And it is one more reason why simultaneously treating co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders is important.


Why Mental Health and Substance Use Need to Be Treated Together

In summary:

  • Research shows more than half of substance use patients have a co-occurring disorder
  • Undiagnosed mental illnesses can trigger addictive behaviors
  • Substance use disorders can trigger latent mental illnesses
  • It can be hard to differentiate mental health disorder symptoms from substance use symptoms
  • Simultaneous treatment of drugs and mental health problems enables a more accurate diagnosis
  • People with addiction who receive proper diagnosis and care for mental health are more likely to stay sober


Addiction and other mental health disorders can be extremely challenging to treat and manage. There is almost no area of life they do not impact. If you or someone you love is fortunate enough to be willing and able to get addiction treatment, they deserve the best chance possible. Getting it right can be the difference between living a happy, fulfilled life or enduring punishing cycles of relapse. Promises Brazos Valley is here to help. Give us a call at (800) 393-0391 if you have any questions about co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders or their treatment.

Scroll to Top