Many people – perhaps even the majority – that enter into a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program also suffer from one or several underlying mental health conditions. These underlying conditions often remain undiagnosed, as they are seen as a result of the substance addiction. In reality, these underlying mental health issues oftentimes actually lead to or, at minimum, intensify the addictions. When this occurs, our addictions and mental health conditions often create a vicious cycle in which each of these disorders actually makes the other one worse, thereby fueling our self-destruction.

This dynamic described above is the reason AAR Healthcare prioritizes addressing both the substance use disorder and whatever underlying mental health conditions that may exist. Even if AAR Healthcare is not the right choice for you or your loved ones, we strongly recommend finding a program designed to treat co-occurring disorders.  

Co-Occurring Disorders: The Connection Between Mental Health and Drug Addiction

The following mental health conditions are associated with increased rates of drug addiction:
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Psychotic Illness
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder

The most likely reason for the high drug use rate in those with mental health conditions is the seeming need for self-medication and self-soothing using drugs. In many cases, individuals with underlying mental health conditions consume drugs or alcohol or pursue other addictive behaviors to manage the symptoms of their mental condition, not because they are intentionally “acting out.” A common consequence of these attempts at self-soothing with addictive substances is developing a substance use disorder (SUD).

The Importance of Addressing Co-Occurring Disorders

Drug addiction programs like the one at AAR Healthcare must recognize the connection between mental health and addiction and provide comprehensive treatment strategies for both. 

Without a co-occurring disorder treatment plan, individuals struggling with both conditions are only able to address part of their overall health issue. This is a recipe for sustained illness and/or frequent relapsing. An analogy that captures this dynamic is that of putting out a forest fire without looking for the source. If you put out the fire but fail to identify the source, the flames will just reappear, oftentimes with increased intensity and consequences.

This is why if you suspect that you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction issues that are related to a mental health issue – whether diagnosed or not – it is critical that you seek professional help.

The Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment Approach at AAR Healthcare

A subset of the evidence-based counseling strategies we use to address co-occurring disorders at AAR Healthcare are described below: 
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): utilizes buprenorphine (including Subutex, Suboxone, Sublocade), naltrexone (or Vivitrol), and/or other medications to control cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): helps clients identify and challenge negative thinking patterns in order to choose different approaches/ behaviors than the habitual (maladaptive) ones 
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): improves individuals’ motivation to change by helping them see their behaviors and their consequences more objectively
  • Contingency management (CM): uses motivational incentives rooted in “operant conditioning” to provide rewards for healthier choices/behaviors in order to reinforce them 
  • The Matrix Model (MM): often geared towards those with stimulant (i.e., methamphetamine and cocaine) addictions whereby the clinician functions as teacher/coach and aims to create a positive, encouraging relationship with the client, which then can serve as the basis to reinforce positive behavior change
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): designed to bridge the seemingly divergent strategies of changing thinking/behaviors with practicing acceptance of the current moment
  • Family behavior therapy (FBT): combines behavioral contracting (i.e., positive reinforcement strategies) with contingency management; involves the client along with family member(s)

Each of these approaches is designed to address certain aspects of co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. Some of the approaches are intended to supplement or enhance existing treatment programs, and others are fairly comprehensive in and of themselves. The commonality among the approaches above is that each one has a scientific evidence-base supporting its use.  

Reach Out to AAR Healthcare Today

By choosing an outpatient program like AAR Healthcare, you are receiving evidence-based treatment with more flexibility. You can live at home with family or friends while still receiving the co-occurring disorder treatment you need. 

If you live in San Marcos or one of the surrounding communities and are looking for the right co-occurring disorder treatment program, reach out to us online or give us a call at 844.967.1610. AAR Healthcare is here to help.