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06-30 Behavioral health disorders that often appear together

Behavioral health disorders that often appear together

Mental health conditions do not occur in a vacuum. The same can also be said about substance abuse disorders (SUDs). The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration notes nearly 8 million Americans had co-occurring disorders in 2014. As far back as 2001, researchers established the relationship between mental health disorders and SUDs. The existence of co-occurring disorders was so common, one researcher stated that dual diagnosis “should be expected rather than considered an exception.”

This article will show that co-occurring disorders or conditions – also referred to as dual diagnosis and comorbid – often present in specific groups.

Alcohol, phobias, depression and bipolar

The National Comorbidity Study notes 24 percent of individuals with social phobias are alcohol-dependent. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found 60 percent of alcoholics have depression. According to the Journal of American Medical Association, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is most prevalent among individuals with bipolar disorder.

Absent from these findings is a strong correlation between AUD and paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, antisocial behavior and – save bipolar – personality disorders (though there is evidence to link schizophrenia and alcohol abuse). These and other mental health conditions are more commonly associated with hallucinogenic drugs, stimulants and opioids.

Schizophrenia, nicotine, pot and acid

Individuals with schizophrenia abuse nicotine more than any other substance. Scientists believe nicotine may lessen cognitive problems associated with the disorder. The deleterious effects of nicotine on individuals with schizophrenia have more to do with the dangers cigarettes pose to anyone who smokes rather than with exacerbating the condition.

An article in the American Journal of Psychiatry notes a strong correlation between marijuana use and schizophrenia. In cases of first-episode schizophrenic psychosis, over 50 percent of the individuals reported using cannabis. The authors also note the connection between cannabis use and the onset of schizophrenia occurring at earlier ages than normal.

In 2011, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience published an article that, ostensibly, argued for more grounded research into the causes of schizophrenia. In particular, the authors questioned the role drugs and drug-induced psychosis play in the onset of the disorder. As early as 1956, neuropharmacologists questioned whether schizophrenia could be caused by the same chemical changes LSD produces in the brain. Known as the serotonin hypothesis, its proponents argued the altered state produced by LSD is the result of actions occurring at the site of serotonin receptors in the brain. This accorded well with an existing belief that schizophrenia is caused by organically-induced serotonin disruptions. While not unanimous in the belief, most researchers acknowledge the use of LSD creates a greater psychotic response in individuals with a predisposition the schizophrenia.

Opioids’ many associations

The exception to all of these pairings is opioids, which constitute a veritable catchall for comorbidity. According to an article published in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, the following psychiatric conditions commonly co-occur with opioid addiction:

  • Depression (30 percent of users)
  • Personality disorders (6 percent)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (4 percent)
  • Phobias (4 percent)
  • Panic disorder (2 percent)

Sovereign Health Group’s Adolescent program provides treatment for substance abuse and mental health conditions. Our dual diagnosis programs address all co-occurring conditions, treating physical addictions as well as the underlying psychological disorders. Contact our 24/7 helpline to find out more.

About the author:

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at

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