Did you know that one (sometimes more) out of four adults with a mental health disorder also has a substance use disorder? This worrisome statistic shows how common it is for people with addiction to suffer from mental illnesses, whether simultaneously or as a consequence.

Because they often accompany each other, it’s important to address mental health in addiction treatment programs. Depending on the severity of either the addiction or the mental health problem, their coexistence can pose a challenge for the person seeking help and prolong recovery time.

This is why rehab facilities have integrated treatment approaches that tackle both directions at the same time.

In this article, we focus on what co-occurring disorders are, the relationship between mental health and addiction, the types of integrated treatment programs, and more.

Addiction Programs

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders

When someone has a co-occurring disorder, it means that their addiction to a certain substance (stimulants, hallucinogens, alcohol, tobacco, or even caffeine) is accompanied by a serious mental illness.

There are no combinations of SUDs and mental health disorders set in stone, but some of the more common examples of co-occurring disorders include:

  • Schizophrenia and substance use disorder
  • Depression and alcohol addiction
  • Intellectual disability and mental illness
  • Anxiety disorder and drug addiction

To further understand the prevalence of co-occurring disorders, take a look at SAMHSA’s 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. According to this study, around 9.2 million adults are suffering from co-occurring disorders in the States.

Common Mental Health Disorders Associated With Addiction

People suffering from addiction are more likely to have the following mental health disorders compared to those who aren’t victims of substance abuse:

  • Depression: A mood disorder that leads to a continuous feeling of sadness and loss of interest to the point where it affects daily routine and interferes with an individual’s responsibilities, relationships, and the like
  • Anxiety disorders: Mental health disorders that cause feelings of worry, nervousness, and fear in a way that prevents an individual from having a normal lifestyle
  • Bipolar disorder: A mental health disorder that causes severe mood swings that range from manic highs to greatly depressive lows
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): When a person experiences an awful, life-changing event and they can’t recover from it, usually accompanied by depression and anxiety
  • Personality disorders: Rigid ways of thinking and acting that are deep-rooted in a person’s personality, which leads them to have negative interactions and relationships with other people (Narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, etc.)

Relationship Between Mental Health Disorders and Addiction

As you’ve noticed, there’s a tight relationship between mental health disorders and addiction. The former could lead to the latter and vice versa, and each can make it harder to recover from the other.

The following points further highlight why these two problems often coexist:

1. Self-Medication Hypothesis

More often than not, people with severe cases of depression, anxiety, or PTSD might see drugs as a solution or a coping mechanism to help them deal with their mental illnesses.

Soon, they become dependent on alcohol or stimulants to achieve a state of numbness by self-medicating, which leads to addiction.

Evidence of this shows in a study made by Case Western Reserve University School. It concluded that teens suffering from anxiety disorders are more prone to start using marijuana at an earlier age than others who don’t have a mental health issue.

2. Shared Risk Factors

Mental health disorders and substance use disorders have many risk factors in common, which makes their relationship even more complex:

  • Genetic predisposition: Genetically speaking, some people are more susceptible to mental health issues and addiction than others.
  • Stressful life events or traumas: Individuals who have witnessed terrible events or experienced harsh living conditions are more likely to fall prey to substance addiction or mental illnesses.
  • Environment: Many environmental factors can cause a person to develop an addiction as well as mental health conditions, such as peer pressure, lack of familial intervention, neglect, discrimination, having a social disadvantage, and more.

3. Influence of Substance Use on Mental Health Symptoms

Lastly, people who experiment with different stimulants or drugs often find that they can help reduce mental health symptoms, which creates a dependency on these substances.

Of course, this seemingly positive effect only works in the short term. Its negative impact shows later because substance use alters parts of the brain that could further contribute to the development of certain mental diseases.

Integrated Treatment Approaches for Co-Occurring Disorders

Because of the high complexity of their relationship, trying to treat addiction or mental health disorders individually doesn’t often yield promising or long-lasting results.

Therefore, it’s important to incorporate integrated treatment approaches to cure both problems at the same time in a specialized treatment facility.

Benefits of Integrated Treatment Approaches

Integrated treatment approaches for co-occurring disorders have the following perks:

  • They can help improve coping skills and work to reduce maladaptive behaviors by introducing behavior treatment.
  • They involve collaboration between healthcare professionals to come up with the best recovery plans that focus on each concern with consideration to the other.
  • They help raise awareness of the symptoms of both disorders and address the relationship between substance use and mental health problems in detail.
  • Integrated treatment often includes dual-recovery groups that create a helpful, supportive community to discuss everything from effective coping mechanisms to substance-related impulses.

Components of Effective Integrated Treatment Programs

For an integrated treatment program to achieve its main goals, it usually involves a few steps or components as highlighted below:

  • Evidence-based therapies: Tried-and-true treatment methods that have been formulated and tested by professionals until they yielded effective results
  • Medication management: Introducing medications that assist in reducing the symptoms of addiction and mental health illnesses while considering all the angles of the patient’s situation
  • Psychoeducation: Giving the person and their family or loved ones a well-informed picture of the nature of their illness and its treatment, usually combining education, group therapy, and cognitive-behavior therapy
  • Relapse prevention and aftercare planning: Following certain strategies to prevent relapse after recovery such as setting recovery goals, identifying triggers, learning the symptoms, knowing which actions to take in high-risk situations, etc.

The Role of Support Systems in Mental Health and Addiction Recovery

As we’ve previously mentioned, feelings of neglect or loneliness may lead to addiction and mental health problems. Those same emotions could interfere with the recovery process, which is why a solid social support system is crucial to creating a good addiction treatment program.

Thankfully, there are many ways a person could get the support they need, several of which are integrated within addiction treatment programs such as support groups and peer-based plans.

These groups leave no room for isolation, so a person suffering from a mental illness and addiction will realize that they don’t have to go through the treatment and recovery trip alone.

They also build healthy coping skills and support networks under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Some of the many qualities that peer-based programs bring to the table include assistance, advice, encouragement, and mutual understanding.

Barriers to Accessing Mental Health Treatment in Addiction Recovery

Unfortunately, mental health treatment is often neglected on the road to recovery from addiction. For one, not many people are educated on how common it is for both problems to coexist.

Other barriers to getting access to mental health treatment in addiction recovery include:

  • Stigma surrounding mental health and addiction: Numerous people who suffer from addiction and mental health illnesses have self-stigma, which influences their self-esteem and makes them feel like they can’t beat their addiction or mental disorder.
  • Limited availability of integrated treatment programs: It’s hard to find a joint treatment program that tackles both sides of the story. Most rehabilitation facilities only focus on recovering from addiction or mental illness separately.
  • Financial barriers and insurance coverage: Dual-treatment plans are typically more expensive, not to mention that insurance policies that cover treatment for both addiction and psychiatric therapy are rare.

How to Choose the Right Treatment Program for Co-Occurring Disorders

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from a co-occurring disorder, it’s time to learn the correct way to pick the right treatment program for you.

  • Start by assessing your needs and personal preferences in a treatment program that matches your lifestyle.
  • Think about other factors like whether or not you want the facility to be near your home, how long the treatment should be, and how these two factors will affect the price.
  • Do your research on the different programs that offer treatment for co-occurring disorders and compare them to come up with the best candidate.
  • Seek guidance from healthcare professionals and support groups to get well-informed recommendations.


Mental health treatment in addiction recovery processes has a critical role because it helps speed up recovery by tackling all the other struggles that an individual may be going through.

This is why experts recommend integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders as it works on both concerns simultaneously.

If you think that you have symptoms of a co-occurring disorder, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Here at New Jersey Addiction Treatment Resources, we offer a wide range of rehab programs that cater to your individual needs, including dual treatment.