SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL ILLNESS

Carolyn Phelps, Ph.D

January 7, 2013

It was great to be back after the holiday break.  I hope everyone out there had a good holiday, full of peace and joy. 

What a great show we had with three super star guests.  The catch phrase of this program is “mental health issues affect everyone.  Shouldn’t you know more,” and if you were wondering why we should know more about mental health and chemical dependency problems when they co-occur, this program should have answered your questions. 

To recap, 8.9 million adults in this country experience problems with both a mental health and substance use problem.  Fifty percent of all persons diagnosed with a serious and persistent mental illness have substance use disorders, along with their mental illness.  The four groups of psychological disorders that tend to be most vulnerable for developing substance use problems are the psychotic disorders, the mood disorders (both the depressive disorders and bipolar disorders), anxiety disorders and personality disorders.  That being said, co-occurring disorders can be found across the range of mental health problems.  Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa would be included. 

We know that people with co-occurring disorders fair worse than people who only have a chemical dependency use problem or mental health problem.  In particular, people with co-occurring disorders tend to have more severe and chronic medical problems, tend to have a higher rate of arrests and incarcerations, a higher rate of homelessness, more severe emotional problems, and social problems.  They are also more at risk for more financial problems, social isolation, homelessness, suicide, violence as a perpetrator, but also sexual and physical victimization.  People with co-occurring disorders tend to have more serious medical illnesses and are at a greater risk for dying prematurely.  All of these factors can be reduced with integrated treatment. Specifically, integrated treatment for people with co-occurring disorders is associated with better treatment outcome, a decrease in homelessness through an increase in housing stability, decreased arrests, a decrease in chemical dependency relapse, a decrease in mental illness symptoms, a decrease in hospitalization rates for mental illness, and an overall improvement in quality of life.  If this is not convincing for you, integrated treatment for people with co-occurring disorders also is associated with an overall total decrease in costs of treatment.  Of course!  Because when people are getting the right treatment, the gold standard of care, they have the best chance of getting better the quickest. 

One person wrote in with a specific medication question regarding their personal medication.  We cannot answer questions about your specific medication problem on the air.  Instead, what we would do is suggest that you talk with your prescriber about your concerns or questions. 

Next week, we have only one guest on the show—Erin Walsh, but she is a superb guest and worthy and capable of answering all of your questions.  I’m very excited about this show, and you will want to tune in.  In addition, Erin is doing two community programs on the day of January 10th at Fitger’s Auditorium.  You won’t want to miss those great events, and you’ll especially want to make sure you tune in to the show.

See you next week when we talk about “Technology, Social Media and the Kids.” 

Carolyn F. Phelps, Ph.D., L.P.

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