Education & Support

Fostering Stronger Minds, Enriching Lives:
Explore AIGAS Education for Mental Health Services

Substance Use Disorders

Many people in the United States struggle with substance use problems and mental health challenges. These two issues often go hand in hand, and this is called a “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorder.” Either the substance use disorder or the mental health problem can come first.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 9.5 million adults in the United States had both a mental illness and a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2022. This is equivalent to 3.8% of the adult population.

Recognizing the Signs:
Symptoms can be different for everyone with a dual diagnosis. Mental health facilities now use tools to screen for alcohol and drug issues.

Signs of a substance use disorder may include:

  • Pulling away from friends and family.
  • Quick changes in behavior.
  • Doing risky things.
  • Needing more of the substance and feel bad without it.
  • Thinking you need the substance to function.

Symptoms of a mental health condition can also be varied, including mood swings, confusion, trouble concentrating, avoiding social activities, or thinking about suicide.

Ways To Treat Substance Use Disorder
For treatment, it’s important to address both the mental illness and the substance use disorder together. We no longer follow the old idea of treating one problem before the other. You and your treatment provider should understand how these issues affect each other and make a plan that works for you.

Treatment can be different for each person, but common parts may include:

  1. Detoxification: If you have a substance use disorder, you may need to start with detox to get the substance out of your system. This is often done in a hospital, where you can be watched and receive medication to help with withdrawal symptoms.
  2. Inpatient Rehabilitation: If you have both mental health and substance use issues, inpatient rehabilitation can be helpful. These centers provide 24/7 medical and mental health care, along with therapy, support, and medications to address the substance use disorder and its underlying causes.
  3. Psychotherapy: Talking to a therapist is often a big part of treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be especially helpful, as it teaches you how to manage unhelpful thoughts that might lead to substance use.
  4. Medications: Some medications can help with mental illness and also reduce withdrawal symptoms during detox.
  5. Supportive Housing: There are places like group homes or sober houses that can help people who are newly sober or trying to avoid relapse. It’s important to choose these places carefully, as they may offer different levels of care.
  6. Self-Help and Support Groups: Dealing with a dual diagnosis can be tough and lonely. Support groups provide a place to share your experiences, get referrals to specialists, find community resources, and learn from others in recovery. Some groups to consider include:
  7. Double Trouble in Recovery: A 12-step program for people dealing with both mental illness and substance use issues.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous: These are 12-step groups for people recovering from alcohol or drug problems. Look for groups that acknowledge the role of mental health treatment in recovery.
  9. Smart Recovery: A support group for people with various addictions that doesn’t rely on faith-based approaches.

Medical advancements, therapy, and various support services like housing, employment help, and peer assistance have turned the idea of getting better for people with mental health problems into a reality.