Integrated Approach to Addiction Treatment

Psychotherapist working with young man in office, closeup

In 2019, more than 9 million adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 25 were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition while also being diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

Of this group, less than 10 percent received treatment for both conditions at the same time. Health officials have reported this number to be higher over the past year due to isolation and stress related to COVID-19.

For some people, mental health disorders occur first and subsequently lead to substance use disorders. For other individuals, addiction may occur first and trigger a mental health condition.

In either case, co-occurring mental health illnesses and substance use disorders can increase the severity of both conditions.

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health conditions and both are frequently associated with addiction.

Mental illnesses typically first appear during the adolescent years as executive functions of the brain are still developing. Decision making skills and impulse control are among the last to mature making teens and young adults more vulnerable to drug use and addiction.

Mental health disorders can alter moods, thoughts and behaviors, and can impact decision making and personal interactions. Several mental health conditions that are more closely affiliated with addiction are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Substance use disorders are characterized by the repetitive or uncontrollable use of one or more addictive substances, and frequently result in negative impacts on health, finances, employment and relationships.

Addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex are often a person’s unhealthy method of coping with mental illness and self-defeating behaviors.

Early diagnosis and effective treatment of mental health disorders can reduce the risk of developing these addictions and research has shown that integrated and comprehensive treatment for co-occurring illnesses is the most effective.

This involves a customized blend of cognitive and behavioral therapy, medications, withdrawal management, motivational enhancement and relapse prevention. Care teams made up of experts in mental health and addiction are equipped to provide the most comprehensive treatment plans.

The goal of integrated care is to help people learn how to reduce their substance use while managing the symptoms of mental illness at the same time.

Adolescents and young adults benefit from coordinated care to help them navigate stressful life changes. This age group faces unique situations such as completing their education, focusing on a career and establishing long-term relationships.

Individuals who receive integrated treatment are more likely to participate fully in their care and achieve sustainable, long-term recovery. They are also less likely to experience symptoms or need hospital care, and more likely to maintain steady employment and live independent, self-fulfilling lives.

The National Center for Wellness and Recovery understands the relationships between mental health and addiction and is staffed with providers who are board-certified in addiction medicine and psychiatry.

Contact the NCWR Addiction Recovery Clinic at OSU at 918-561-1890 to schedule an appointment. In case of a medical emergency, please call 911. For immediate and confidential emotional support, please call 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.