About co-occurring disorders in recovery

May 12, 2022

By Laurie Duraney, LCSW
Clinical Supervisor for 5 Door Recovery

CO-OCCURRING DISORDERS = Chemical Dependence + Psychiatric Illness

According to the 2019 Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Co‑Occurring AMI (any mental illness) and SUD (substance use disorder) among adults aged 18 or older in 2019:

  • 24.5% (or 61.2 million people) had either a mental illness or a substance use disorder in the past year
  • 16.8% (or 42.0 million people) had a mental illness but not an substance use disorder
  • 3.9% (or 9.7 million people) had substance use disorder but not a mental illness
  • 3.8% (or 9.5 million people) had both a mental illness and a substance use disorder.

Addictions affect mental illness and vice versa:

  1. Each illness raises the risk of developing the other.
  2. Each illness affects recovery of the other.
  3. Chronic substance abuse can trigger or worsen psychiatric symptoms, mask them or cause a psychiatric relapse.
  4. Each illness can become closely linked over time.
  5. Each illness can develop at separate points in time.

Overlap of Genes Associated with Addiction and Mental Illness

Research is beginning to discover the genes that appear to influence the likelihood of people developing alcoholism, schizophrenia, and other mental illness. This is called “having a genetic predisposition”. If you are not exposed to certain factors in your environment that causes these genes to “turn on”, then you will not develop the illnesses. However, if for example, you drink alcohol and have the genetic predisposition for alcoholism, you are more likely to become an alcoholic.

Professionals in the addiction treatment field have long noticed that people who have alcoholism are likely to also be depressed. The research is showing that the genes for alcoholism and certain mental disorders overlap. That is, people who have the genes for alcoholism are likely to have the genes for bipolar or other mood disorders or schizophrenia as well. While the exact percentages may vary, the relationship between mental health problems and addiction is very strong.