Addiction: Co-occurring Disorder

A co-occurring disorder describes the presence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder at the same time. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.1 million adults have a co-occurring disorder.

Because there are many combinations of disorders that can occur, the symptoms of co-occurring disorders vary widely. The symptoms of a substance use disorder may include:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors when drunk or high
  • Loss of control over use of substances
  • Doing things you wouldn’t normally do to maintain your habit
  • Developing tolerance and experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling like you need the drug to be able to function

The symptoms of a mental health condition can also vary greatly. Warning signs can help identify if there is a need to seek help, and may include:

  • Extreme mood changes
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Thoughts of suicide

When neither illness is treated, one illness can make the other worse. When only one illness is treated, treatment is less likely to be effective. When both illnesses are treated, the chances for a full and lasting recovery are greatly improved, and it is easier to return to a full and productive life.

Today, the most common method of treatment for co-occurring disorders is integrated intervention, in which a person receives care for both a specific mental health disorder and substance use disorder. Because there are many ways in which a co-occurring disorder may arise, treatment will not be the same for everyone. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health Behavioral Health has an exceptional team of counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, nurses and other related healthcare professionals that employ a range of treatment options, including individual therapy, life skills education and medication management.  For more information, call Cone Health Behavioral Health at (336) 832-9800.

Spokesperson Background:

Beth Mackenzie is a substance abuse counselor at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital. She received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1977, and a Master of Science in counseling from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2014. She has been practicing in the field for more than 20 years.