Treating Mental Illness and Addiction Together

Posted on April 9th, 2010
Posted in Dual Diagnosis

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, more than half of those seeking help for addiction also suffer from mental illness such as depression or schizophrenia, and between 15% and 20% of those seeking mental health services also have substance abuse problems. This is known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.

People with schizophrenia are almost five times more likely to have substance abuse disorders than those without mental illness, and the risk of having a substance abuse problem is two to five times greater in people with anxiety disorders than in those who don’t suffer from anxiety.

A new comprehensive study that focused on people who suffer from both mental illness and substance abuse disorders, titled “Concurrent Disorders—Substance Abuse in Canada,” warned that the health-care system in Canada is “fragmented and compartmentalized” in its approach to those with dual diagnosis.

Michael Kirby, chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, writes in the report that treatment centers have historically required to treat either mental illness or addiction, not both—although the two are closely related and you can’t treat one without treating the other.

He explained that people seeking mental health services are often excluded from treatment if they admit to abusing substances, and that those seeking addiction treatment are often turned away if they are already being treated for a mental illness.

Rita Notarandrea, deputy chief executive officer of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, says that this is a call to action to those with both addiction and mental illness. “There is a population that overlaps both and the system really needs to be able to deal with this particular population,” she said.

She added that addiction costs about $40 billion per decade, and mental illness costs about $14 billion. This doesn’t reflect the thousands of people who suffer from both.

Source: North Bay Nugget, Christina Spencer, Study: Treat Addiction, Mental Illness Together, April 8, 2010. 

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