The term co-occurring disorders (COD) refers to a diagnosis of one or more mental health disorders plus substance (drug and/or alcohol) misuse. COD involves two diagnostic areas: mental health and substance misuse (as well as trauma, traumatic brain injury). Mental health disorders commonly associated with COD include mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.1
Compared to those who have a mental health disorder or a substance abuse problem alone, people with COD often experience more severe and chronic medical, social, and emotional problems. The challenge is to address both diagnostic areas without compromising the best treatment for either one.2
Approximately 9.2 million Americans meet the diagnostic criteria each year. And it is estimated that between 60-70% of those suffering from addiction have COD.3
As the mental health and substance misuse pieces impact one another greatly, they should be treated with an integrated, comprehensive plan. 4
Many of those diagnosed with COD who seek treatment are often bounced among different programs, which do not provide a comprehensive, integrated treatment plan. Unfortunately, most rehabilitation programs, while claiming to address COD, focus almost exclusively on the drug piece, and most patients find abstinence to be nearly impossible to maintain because of the unaddressed mental health disorder(s). On the flip side, addressing the mental health piece while still misusing drugs/alcohol compromises the success of any mental health program the patient enters into. 5
A uniquely positioned grassroots organization, the harris project is the only 501(c)(3) organization we know of created to promote, support and advance education, screening, treatment and research opportunities to improve the lives of adolescents through young adults presenting with symptoms of and/or diagnosed with COD.
According to the CDC:
Every day in the United States, 114 people die as a result of drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments (ED) for the misuse or abuse of drugs.
Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.
In 2012, 33,175 (79.9%) of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States were unintentional.
In 2011, drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department (ED) visits. Of these, more than 1.4 million ED visits were related to pharmaceuticals.
Nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.
In 2012, of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 22,114 (53 percent) were related to pharmaceuticals.
And the most up-to-date research shows that in 2015 52,404 Americans died by overdose. OVERDOSE DEATHS ARE THE ONLY CAUSE OF DEATH THAT CONTINUES TO RISE AT AN ALARMING RATE!
We at the harris project believe that there will be significant decreases in these numbers once COD becomes something that the general population understands. The link between mental health issues and substance use/abuse is undeniable, and the need for integrated and comprehensive treatment is critical. Together we will bring COD: out of the shadows and into the light.