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Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorder

Many individuals that struggle with substance abuse disorder may also have a common comorbidity as well. Read on to learn more about common comorbidities.

What is Comorbidity?

Comorbidity has been defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as two or more disorders or illnesses that have been diagnosed in the same person. In most cases, the combination of illnesses may either lead to new symptoms or worsening of current symptoms. 

The most common comorbidities for a substance abuse disorder include the diagnosis of a mental health disorder. 1

common comorbidities

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Comorbidity vs. Dual Diagnosis

While comorbidity and dual diagnosis are sometimes used interchangeably, there is an important distinction. Comorbidity refers to any two illnesses being diagnosed in the same person, whereas dual diagnosis is specifically the presence of a substance abuse and mental health disorder. 2

Statistics on Common Comorbidities

Dual diagnosis is common, with almost eight million adults affected in the U.S. alone. 20.3 million adults have been diagnosed with substance use disorders, and of these, 37.9% have a comorbid mental illness. Similarly, 42.1 million adults have been diagnosed with mental illness, and of these, 18.2% have a comorbid substance use disorder. 3

These disorders can happen in almost anyone and may be affected by multiple aspects. Keep reading to learn about common comorbidities.

Comorbidity Causes and Diagnosis

Although it may seem that one of these disorders may directly cause the other, this is not always the case. Common comorbidities may share common risk factors. A medical professional can assist patients with identifying causes of a dual diagnosis.

Causes of Comorbidity

It is possible that both conditions for those experiencing dual diagnosis may have the same cause. For example, a specific genetic vulnerability could cause a mental disorder and that same genetic vulnerability may also be linked to an increased likelihood of that individual developing a substance use disorder. 4
This is why it’s so important to receive treatment for both conditions at the same time, as some of them interact with each other in multiple ways.

How is Comorbidity Diagnosed?

A qualified medical professional should diagnose comorbidity. Confirmation of comorbid substance use disorder and mental illness indicates a dual diagnosis and often requires a different kind of treatment plan to make sure both conditions are treated correctly.

Common Comorbidities and Conditions

Sometimes, the relationship between comorbidity and substance abuse is not always clear. In fact, many patients are not aware of a comorbidity until they seek treatment for either their mental health or substance abuse disorder.
The following sections describe several common comorbidities of substance use disorder so you or your loved one can know what to look out for.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent and intense worry, and symptoms may worsen over time without treatment. Also, studies have shown that anxiety is generally associated with cannabis use disorder more so than with any other substance abuse. 5

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Reports of ADHD prevalence as a comorbidity of substance use disorder span a wide range of 2% to 83%. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that originates in childhood. The condition is characterized by difficulties with focusing and with controlling impulsive behaviors. 6

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders may also co-occur with substance abuse disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. Studies have found that specific substance use disorders are more generally associated with eating disorders than others, such as cocaine use disorder, which had a lifetime prevalence of 13.7%.

Common Comorbidities

Other common comorbidities of substance use disorders include:
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Mood disorders

Comorbidity Symptoms and Risk Factors

Many warning signs of comorbidity may appear early on in an individual’s life, such as genetic factors or trauma that took place during childhood. There may be multiple environmental factors or personality traits that can point towards an increased likelihood of comorbidity as well, such as a general failure to meet responsibilities or poor physical health. Some other risk factors include epigenetic influences and stress. 7

Comorbidity Treatment Options

Successful treatment of comorbid substance abuse disorders often requires an integrated approach, meaning that treatment addresses both conditions at once. For this reason, longer-term treatment programs are generally more necessary than short-term programs, as it takes more time to treat both disorders fully.

How to Treat Comorbid Substance Abuse Disorders?

Comorbid substance abuse disorders are treated with combination therapies that manage both conditions. In some cases, this is achieved through medication and behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapies may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical-behavior therapy, and therapeutic treatment.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety and depression, and it also shows strong efficacy for the treatment of substance use disorders. Dialectical-behavior therapy is based on CBT and was specifically designed to reduce drug use. It is also a proven treatment option for borderline personality disorder. Lastly, a particularly successful treatment approach is therapeutic treatment programs. Therapeutic treatments offer long-term residential treatment services that are designed to assist patients with resocialization and recovery as it occurs alongside fellow residents. 8

common comorbidities

Contact Ripple Ranch Recovery Center Today

Ripple Ranch Recovery Center will work with you or a loved one in order to provide the highest quality comorbid substance abuse treatment. Whether a patient is experiencing challenges with common comorbidities or entirely different obstacles to their wellness, we are here for support. We assist patients with dual diagnosis and follow-up treatment that includes long-term residential care, medication-assisted therapy, and different therapy modalities to help fit your needs.

Treatment is a personalized process that relies on evidence-based methods to achieve results. Our kind and supportive staff will work with you to create a specific and individualized treatment program that will help treat your comorbidities. Throughout treatment, patients will receive support from physicians, nurses, and psychiatrists. The specialized dual diagnosis program allows patients to select their preferred treatment approach, and both holistic and more traditional approaches are available.

Reach Out and Begin Healing

Ripple Ranch Recovery Center is here to make sure that our patients all feel cared for and supported. Prioritizing quality care is a necessity for every step of the recovery journey. Reach out to us today for dual diagnosis treatment.