When the news broke of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, the world was stunned. This news, coming within mere days of Kate Spade’s death, was as shocking as it was tragic. Both individuals were known for living such uniquely creative lives of privilege and, in many cases, that of excess.
Though we cannot say for sure why they died by suicide, we can undoubtedly postulate that substance misuse may very well have played a role. Anthony Bourdain was, in his own words, a recovering addict; however, he still drank alcohol. Reports in recent news say that Kate Spade, too, was drinking heavily towards the end of her life.
Regardless of whether or not alcohol had a direct influence upon their suicides, it is worth considering the role that substance misuse plays within the context of mental illness.
What the Treatment Industry Can Learn from Anthony Bourdain
In the past, treatment for substance addiction was kept separate from the treatment of mental health disorders. Care was provided at different treatment facilities, and very distinct approaches were used for each condition. As a result, many individuals who suffered from both an addiction and a psychiatric condition never received the appropriate treatment for both disorders.
Today, dual diagnosis treatment blends effective components of addiction therapy and mental health care to create a comprehensive treatment program that addresses the co-occurring disorders. However, many treatment centers still aren’t equipped to treat both simultaneously.
What is a Co-occurring Disorder?
Co-occurring disorders are not rare phenomena. In fact, it is more likely that mental illness and addiction feed off of and into one another.
A co-occurring disorder is when a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder coexist. A co-occurring disorder can often be complicated to diagnose due to complexity as well as the differentiation in symptoms depending on the mental health disorder and substance of choice.
For instance, a loved one who suffers from prescription drug abuse and major depressive disorder may have very different symptoms than someone who suffers from heroin addiction and schizophrenia. Co-occurring disorders are treatable, but treatment is not effective unless both the addiction and mental disorder are addressed.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), people with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder.1
How Common are Co-occurring Disorders?
How much more likely? People who are addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. Furthermore, alcohol is involved in over a quarter of all suicides.
Some more interesting facts:
- Antisocial personality disorder most commonly occurs with alcoholism. In fact, people who live with ASPD are 21% more likely to drink in excess. (NIAAA)
- More than half of all people with schizophrenia have a concurrent substance abuse disorder.
- Cocaine addiction can fuel symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, insomnia, and violent behavior – all common symptoms of mental health disorder.
Why We Need to Treat Co-occurring Disorders Together
According to research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA), combining therapeutic techniques from the areas of psychiatry and addiction treatment can reduce the relapse rate among patients who complete the program. An integrated approach has also been proven to lower the risk of suicide among graduates of the program.
There are multiple benefits to treating substance addiction and co-occurring psychiatric conditions at the same time:
• An integrated treatment program addresses some of the negative consequences of mental health problems, such as reduced motivation and fears about socializing with others.
• Therapy that involves medication is more effective when the pharmaceuticals address both the addiction and the mental health disorder.
• Group therapy for people with a dual diagnosis provides a solid support network for people who suffer from both a psychiatric condition and a substance addiction.
• Treating a mental health disorder and a substance addiction at the same time allows clients to address the unique emotions and triggers that may lead them to relapses, such as panic attacks or depression. Clients learn how to handle the emotional pain without using drugs or alcohol.
The bottom line here is that alcoholism and mental health are not mutually exclusive and must be treated together. This bears repeating especially when situations such as high profile celebrity suicides occur. When our focus is drawn to the subject of mental health, it is imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to both the disease of addiction and diseases of the mind. If you or a loved one is suffering from co-occurring disorders, get help today. Contact us by calling 888.962.8208 to learn more about how we can help.