rippleranch_logo-200x101-1-q6144w15aqyeb8bcxqq9ctly80oko5dqv2hqwrlz40 (1)

What is a Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Program?

Learn more about co-occurring disorders, their symptoms, and treatment options that may be available.


A co-occurring disorder is a linguistic term that defines a situation involving a mental health condition as well as substance abuse disorders. The terms co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis, and comorbid are often used interchangeably.

Table of Contents

Learn More About Ripple Ranch Recovery Center

Our team is standing by to discuss your situation and options. Your call is fully confidential, and no obligation is required

What Is The Difference Between Comorbid And Co-Occurring?

A comorbid disorder is a medical term used to imply the presence of one or more additional conditions coinciding with the primary condition. During diagnosis, practitioners argue that the use of non-specific terms may result in correspondingly imprecise thinking, and to that end, the term comorbid disorder should be avoided. In most cases, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can lead to substance abuse, leading to co-occurring disorders as addiction sets in.

How Common Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 7.7 million adults in the U.S. have co-occurring mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders. Of the 20.3 million adults with substance abuse disorders, 37.8% also had a mental health condition, and among 42.1 million adults with mental health conditions, 18.2% also had a substance abuse disorder. 1

Co-Occurring Disorders Symptoms

Since a co-occurring disorder is the simultaneous presence of a mental health condition and substance abuse, its symptoms are typically associated with the specific mental health condition symptoms and the symptoms of substance abuse. People suffering from co-occurring disorders face increased risks of developing additional issues, including co-occurring mood disorders and substance abuse, serious medical illnesses, symptomatic relapses, and sexual and physical victimization.

Mental Disorder Symptoms

Mental health disorders are sometimes difficult to pinpoint due to having so few physical signs. Symptoms that may indicate a potential mental disorder include:
  • Feeling sad or down
  • Low energy, feeling tired, or lack of sleep
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Staying away from friends and family
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Change in eating habits
  • Excessive hostility, anger, or violence

Substance Use Disorder Symptoms

Signs of substance use can be both physical and psychological. Symptoms to look for when assessing a possible substance abuse disorder include:
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Ignoring responsibilities
  • Secretive behavior
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor decision making

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders can occur in many combinations. The conditions could co-occur at different times with symptoms that vary in intensity. While most people focus on knowing which condition came first, it would help if you thought of the conditions as independent problems interacting with each other.

Depression and Alcohol Addiction

It is common to hear people say they are consuming alcohol to “drown their sorrows” or have a few beers or wine to help them relax and relieve anxiety. Consuming alcohol occasionally may help, but when you have to drink each time you face a stressful situation, you could be among the fifteen million American adults struggling with alcoholism.
Studies show there is a strong link between alcoholism and depression. Almost one-third of individuals diagnosed with major depression have an alcohol use disorder. In most cases, depression comes first, pushing the individual into alcoholism, which only worsens the mental health condition. 2

Eating Disorder and Cocaine Addiction

Eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, are more common in people who need addiction treatments. According to Vertava Health, 22% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder also met the criteria for substance abuse, including cocaine addiction.

As a stimulant and appetite suppressant, consuming cocaine can be extremely harmful to an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder. The drug changes your metabolism, and some of the adverse effects associated with regular cocaine use include rapid weight loss, lowered appetite, and increased energy levels.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Heroin Addiction

People with PTSD have an extensive history of drug abuse and are more likely to experience overdoses on drugs such as heroin. The presence of PTSD is a significant risk factor for developing a long-term heroin addiction. While heroin abuse among people with and without PTSD is almost the same, people with PTSD are affected differently. Specifically, they have a higher risk of developing major depression and a higher long-term chance of trying to commit suicide.

Anxiety and Prescription Drug Addiction

Anxiety is a common mental health condition among Americans, with around 29% of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder within the past week. However, medical prescriptions for anxiety, such as benzodiazepines, come with a high risk of addiction. This is why it’s highly recommended that you visit a licensed doctor to get the proper treatment for your anxiety.3

ADHD and Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana is among the most abused drug globally, coming third after alcohol and tobacco abuse. Adults diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to engage in substance abuse. According to the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions in the United States, individuals with ADHD are two or three times more likely to use marijuana than those without the condition. 4

What is a Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Program?

Mental health disorders and substance abuse have been treated separately in the past few years. As researchers continue to study co-occurring disorders, they have realized that both conditions must be treated simultaneously for maximum effect. Managing one condition does not necessarily mean the other condition will improve, meaning the best practices for treating co-occurring disorders are required to address both disorders at the same time. To that end, integrated treatments for co-occurring disorders are being adopted by most practitioners.

Integrated Treatment Criteria

For the co-occurring disorders treatment program to be classified under the integrated treatment approach, it has to meet the following criteria:
  • It must include a multidisciplinary team of rehab and mental health experts
  • The patient must receive stage-wise interventions with comprehensive access
  • It must include motivational interventions and participating in self-help groups
  • It must have medical treatments and interventions that include a psychiatric diagnosis
Integrated treatment allows health care providers to manage both conditions simultaneously and gives them insights on handling co-occurring disorders daily. In addition to dual treatment, integrated treatment reduces the hospitalization rate and leads to fewer service costs

Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment at Ripple Ranch Recovery

Ripple Ranch Recovery offers an evidence-based approach to co-occurring disorders treatments allowing us to screen, diagnose, and deliver integrated care to patients suffering from co-occurring disorders.
If you have any signs of a co-occurring disorder, it’s highly advised that you visit a doctor instead of trying to self-medicate. Self-medication is associated with adverse effects such as incorrect self-diagnosis, which leads to potential side effects and can pose a high risk of dependence and abuse.

Contact us today to learn more about co-occurring disorders and how to find the right treatment plan for you.