In treating co-occurring illnesses, also known as dual disorders, where individuals are simultaneously dealing with addiction and mental illness, there are different approaches to treatment that can vary widely from one program to another.
In many programs, mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and similar ailments are treated in a manner which does not not address substance use disorders that are being experienced at the same time. If those individuals also are addicted to drugs or alcohol, those issues are often left to the individuals themselves, or another treatment program, to work through separately.
The problem with this approach is that it ignores the fact that these dual disorders are happening to one person’s brain at the same time, and are impacting each other – one of these issues may be the cause, the trigger, or the effect, of the other. For example, if a person becomes depressed as a result of alcoholism, then the depression often cannot effectively be managed until the person can recover from their addiction. If a person with bipolar disorder leans on drugs to manage the effects of their illness, then the bipolar disorder must be managed in order to allow the person an opportunity to recover from their drug addiction.
An integrated approach to treating dual disorders, in comparison, offers an environment where both the mental illness and the substance use disorder are treated simultaneously. In contrast to the above treatment models, integrated treatment provides the individual with a team of professionals well-versed in both substance use and mental illness, and a supportive group of participants who are also working toward, and through, their own recovery journeys.
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