Q: What is meant by a co-occurring disorder?
A. A co-occurring disorder is a psychological disorder that complicates treatment for drug addiction. It is estimated that in addition to their drug addiction, 10 to 20 percent of addicts/alcoholics have a separate psychological problem. In fact, many in this group view their alcohol or drug use as a form of self-medication.
Depression, anxiety disorder, and bi-polar disease are just a few of the disorders that can further complicate treatment for addiction. Substance abuse will only make their other problem worse.
If a co-occurring disorder is suspected, receiving professional advice is even more important. Still, recovery for these individuals is attainable.
Proper diagnosis is the first step, because substance abuse can sometimes be the source of the addict’s psychological problems. A friend of mine from Miami, who is in his forties, just celebrated seventeen years of sobriety. I attended his celebration along with about fifty of his friends, relatives and colleagues. Early in life, before alcohol and drugs became a problem, he was already struggling—diagnosed as bi-polar and hospitalized twice for attempted suicide. He began to use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate. He told me that throughout his life he has been on thirteen different medications for depression and bi-polar disorder. He continues to take medication for bi-polar disorder, but has been alcohol- and drug-free since his early thirties.
This is an example of someone who was fortunate to receive a proper diagnosis and who followed through on his recovery. The prescribed medications he takes now allow him to enjoy a much higher quality of life. For some people these medications are life-savers.
This “Q & A with Joe” is excerpted from Part 5 of “Why Don’t They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery.”
>”I need help because I’m not able to deal with my live-in Fiance’s need to get drunk every night.”
> Self-Tests: Codependence
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What is co-occurring disorder, What is co-occurring disorder