The Intricate Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Learn more about the link between substance abuse and mental health in this comprehensive article.

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Substance abuse and mental health disorders are often intricately intertwined, with each condition having the potential to worsen the other.1

At AM Behavioral Health, we understand the complex nature of this relationship. We offer an integrated approach to treating co-occurring substance abuse and mental health conditions.

Our mission is to foster, nurture, and stabilize those struggling with these challenges, empowering them to thrive and live their best lives upon departure. We meet you wherever you are on your journey, providing personalized support tailored to your unique needs and goals.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Unraveling the Intricate Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health

The relationship between substance abuse and mental health disorders is complex and multifaceted. Each condition can often worsen the other in a vicious cycle that can be challenging to break free from.
This bidirectional relationship manifests in several ways, including:


People struggling with mental health conditions may turn to substances as a means of self-medicating or coping with their symptoms. These conditions may include:2

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other mental health conditions 

Alcohol or drugs may provide temporary relief, but ultimately worsen the underlying mental health issue in the long run.

Substance-Induced Mental Health Issues

Substance abuse can trigger or worsen existing mental health symptoms. For example, certain drugs can induce:
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Other psychiatric conditions

Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to depression or anxiety disorders.3

Shared Risk Factors

In some cases, substance abuse and mental health disorders share common underlying risk factors, such as:
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Environmental stressors
These factors can increase a person’s vulnerability to developing both conditions at the same time.4

Impaired Judgment and Decision-Making

Mental health disorders can impair a person’s judgment and decision-making abilities. This increases the likelihood of engaging in substance abuse as a maladaptive coping mechanism.

Prevalence of Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, are where someone experiences both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition at the same time. This is more prevalent than many realize.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 21.5 million adults in the United States had co-occurring disorders in 2022.5

This staggering statistics underscore the importance of addressing both substance abuse and mental health in a comprehensive and integrated manner to achieve successful treatment outcomes.

What are the Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders?

Though there are no universal causes of dual diagnosis, it is important to note that some mental health conditions put individuals at higher risk of developing substance use disorder (SUD).
Some of the most common co-occurring disorders include:
  • Anxiety disorders: Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder are frequently seen alongside other conditions.
  • Mood disorders: Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are common co-occurring conditions, as well as personality disorders like borderline personality disorder.
  • Substance use disorders: People with mental health conditions are more likely to misuse substances like alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD can co-occur with anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and substance use disorders.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Individuals with PTSD are at an increased risk for developing other mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and any combination of mental health or substance use disorders can co-occur.

Barriers to Recovery

Failing to address co-occurring mental health issues can significantly impede successful substance abuse treatment outcomes, and vice versa. The consequences of untreated conditions can be far-reaching and include:
  • Relapse triggers: Untreated mental health conditions can trigger relapse or make it more difficult to maintain sobriety, as people may turn to substances as a means of self-medication or coping with their symptoms.
  • Worsened symptoms: Ongoing substance abuse can worsen mental health symptoms. This leads to a downward spiral that further compromises a person’s well-being.
  • Reduced treatment engagement: People with untreated co-occurring disorders may struggle to fully engage in and benefit from treatment, as their mental health issues or substance abuse can interfere with their ability to participate effectively.
  • Increased risk of adverse outcomes: Untreated co-occurring disorders are associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes, such as hospitalization, legal issues, homelessness, and even premature death.

Importance of Integrated Treatment Approaches

Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of integrated treatment approaches for co-occurring disorders. For example, people who got treatment for both substance abuse and mental health disorders have significantly better outcomes compared to those who were treated for only one condition.6
By addressing both aspects at the same time, integrated treatment approaches can:
  • Break the cycle of co-occurring disorders
  • Improve treatment engagement and adherence
  • Increase the likelihood of sustained recovery

Our Integrated Approach to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Recovery

At AM Behavioral Health, we recognize the intricate relationship between substance abuse and mental health, and our approach reflects this understanding. We employ cutting-edge, evidence-based treatment modalities proven effective for co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Our interdisciplinary team of experts collaborates to create personalized treatment plans that integrate the most appropriate therapies and interventions for each person’s unique needs. Some of the innovative modalities we utilize include:

Dual Diagnosis Treatment (DDT)

This comprehensive, patient-centered approach combines substance abuse and mental health interventions. The goal is to address both conditions at the same time through a seamless continuum of care.
DDT empowers people to develop coping strategies and healthy lifestyle habits to support long-term recovery.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a highly effective, evidence-based therapy that helps people identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to their substance abuse and mental health challenges. Through CBT, clients learn to reframe distorted thinking and develop more adaptive coping mechanisms.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a comprehensive, mindfulness-based therapy that combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with acceptance strategies. It is particularly effective for people struggling with:
  • Emotion regulation
  • Impulsivity
  • Interpersonal difficulties often associated with conditions like borderline personality disorder

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

For those struggling with substance use disorders, MAT combines behavioral therapy with FDA-approved medications to alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This integrated approach increases treatment engagement and improves outcomes.

Trauma-Focused Therapies

We offer specialized trauma-focused therapies, such as EMDR and trauma-focused CBT. The goal is to help people process and heal from traumatic experiences that may contribute to substance abuse or mental health issues.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI is a client-centered counseling approach that enhances motivation for change by exploring and resolving ambivalence. It is particularly effective in the early stages of treatment and can improve engagement and retention.

Our treatment plans are meticulously crafted to address each person’s unique needs, drawing from a comprehensive toolkit of evidence-based modalities and interventions.

We believe in empowering our clients with the skills and strategies necessary to navigate their journey from crisis to wellness, fostering resilience and promoting long-term recovery.

Shattering the Stigma: A Compassionate Approach to Recovery

Stigma and misconceptions surrounding co-occurring disorders often deter people from seeking the help they need. At AM Behavioral Health, we actively work to destigmatize mental health and substance abuse issues, emphasizing that these conditions are not moral failings or signs of weakness.

Our approach is rooted in:

  • Compassion
  • Understanding
  • A commitment to creating a nurturing, judgment-free environment
We understand the courage it takes to seek support, and we strive to create a safe space where people can heal and grow without fear of stigma or discrimination. Here’s how we work to shatter the stigma:

Integrated Care: A Holistic Approach

One of the key advantages of AM Behavioral Health’s approach is our integrated care model, which combines substance abuse and mental health services under one roof. Our multidisciplinary team of professionals works together to address all aspects of your well-being.

This team includes:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Therapists
  • Counselors
  • Peer support specialists

This integrated approach ensures seamless coordination of care, allowing for effective treatment and better outcomes. By addressing both substance abuse and mental health at the same time, we can help you develop a toolkit of coping strategies and healthy habits to support long-term recovery.

Supporting Sustained Recovery

Recovery is a lifelong journey. At AM Behavioral Health, we are committed to supporting you every step of the way. Our services extend beyond the initial treatment phase, with a focus on relapse prevention planning and aftercare support.

We provide resources and tools to help you:

  • Maintain sobriety
  • Manage mental health symptoms
  • Navigate the challenges of reintegrating into your community
Our alumni group offers a supportive network of peers who understand your journey, fostering a sense of connection and accountability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding substance abuse and mental health treatment:

What Makes AM Behavioral Health's Approach Unique?

At AM Behavioral Health, we understand that co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders require a comprehensive, integrated approach.
Our team works to create personalized treatment plans that address both aspects at the same time through innovative, evidence-based modalities like:
We meet you wherever you are on your journey, providing a continuum of care tailored to your unique needs.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

The duration of treatment varies based on each person’s circumstances. Some may benefit from a more intensive, structured program, followed by step-down levels of care as they progress. Others may thrive in an outpatient setting with ongoing support.
At AM Behavioral Health, we believe in personalized care plans that adapt to your evolving needs, ensuring you receive the appropriate level of services throughout your recovery journey.

Will My Insurance Cover Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders?

AM Behavioral Health is in-network with most major insurance providers, and we also accept:
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Self-pay options
Our dedicated staff will work closely with you to determine your eligibility and explore payment solutions, ensuring that financial concerns do not become a barrier to accessing the care you need.

What Can I Expect During the Intake Process?

The first step is to call our intake department or visit us during our walk-in hours to schedule an appointment. During the intake process, you’ll meet with our Admissions Coordinators to complete initial consents and a comprehensive biopsychosocial evaluation.
This evaluation helps our clinical team identify your individualized treatment needs and determine the appropriate level of care. Upon admission, you’ll be oriented to our programs and staff, and we’ll begin developing your personalized treatment plan.

How Can I Support a Loved One with Co-Occurring Disorders?

Supporting a loved one with co-occurring disorders can be challenging, but your involvement can make a significant difference in their recovery journey.

You can support them through:

  • Educating yourself about their conditions
  • Practicing active listening without judgment
  • Encourage them to seek professional help
  • Attending family therapy sessions or support groups 
  • Learning coping strategies and ways to foster a supportive environment
Remember, recovery is a process, and your patience, understanding, and unconditional love can be invaluable.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Your Journey Toward Wellness with AM Behavioral Health

The intersection of substance abuse and mental health can be complex and challenging, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. At AM Behavioral Health, we are here to guide you on your journey toward wellness, offering a compassionate, innovative, and integrated approach to treatment.

Our commitment to you is unwavering – we will meet you wherever you are, with personalized support and a continuum of care designed to empower your resilience and capacity for change. Together, we can overcome the challenges of co-occurring disorders and pave the way for a brighter, healthier future.

Contact AM Behavioral Health Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues, we invite you to reach out to us today.

Our caring and knowledgeable team is here to:

  • Listen without judgment
  • Answer your questions
  • Help you take the first step toward healing

Call us today at 937-236-1800 or reach out online to learn more about our comprehensive services and how we can support you on your journey.