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05-11 Dual diagnosis is common among prescription drug abusers

Dual diagnosis is common among prescription drug abusers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deem prescription drug abuse in the U.S. an epidemic. In 2014, over 18,000 people fatally overdosed on prescription painkillers. As this article will show, individuals who abuse prescription drugs are at greater risk for having co-occurring mental health issues.

Substance use disorders and moods

The numbers don’t lie:

  • Individuals with substance abuse disorders (SUDs) are 40 percent more likely to have a mood disorder than the rest of the population
  • Individuals with SUDs are 30 percent more likely to have an anxiety disorder than the rest of the population
  • The combination of alcohol and medication misuse has been estimated to affect up to 19 percent of older Americans (50 and older)
  • Approximately 25 percent of elderly patients have comorbid depression. Also common are cognitive disorders and anxiety disorders, both of which occur in 10 to 15 percent of elderly patients
  • Of all youth experiencing a major depressive episode (MDE) last year, 34 percent also used drugs or alcohol (compared to just 16 percent of their peers with no MDE)
  • Over 70 percent of youth entering treatments for substance use disorders were identified as having a co-occurring mental health diagnosis

Correlation between drug abuse and personality disorders

  • According to a Justice Department publication, drugs – illicit and prescription – increase the risks for the following:
  • Antisocial personality disorder (over 15 percent)
  • Manic episodes (over 14 percent)
  • Schizophrenia (over 10 percent)

“Mental health problems and substance abuse are often seen together because one makes you more vulnerable to the other,” says Alan Manevitz, M.D., New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Researchers estimate 60 percent of individuals with an SUD also have a mental health issue. According to one researcher, bipolar and substance abuse occur so often in young people that any adolescent presenting symptoms of bipolar disorder should be assessed for alcohol or drug abuse.


Mental illness and SUDs are so entwined that many treatment centers routinely screen for co-occurring conditions when patients present with symptoms from either condition. According to Dr. R. Andrews Chambers, director of the Addiction Psychiatry Training Program at the Indiana University School of Medicine, such screening is a logical progression. Chambers says there are high rates of comorbidity among patients with bipolar, schizophrenia, post-traumatic shock disorder (PTSD) and personality disorders.

Dual diagnosis is common among prescription drug abusers

Sovereign Health Group’s adolescent program treats prescription drug addiction, mental health issues such as bipolar and schizophrenia and dual diagnosed individuals. There are predisposing risk factors associated with dual diagnosis parents should know about. Contact our 24/7 helpline to learn more about our program for teens located in Rancho San Diego.

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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