Custom «Co-Occurring Disorders» Essay Paper Sample

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are a major concern in the field of mental health. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that about eight million people in the U.S. had exhibited symptoms of co-occurring disorders in 2015. People suffering from mental health disorders have a higher likelihood of experiencing disorders associated with alcohol and substance abuse. Co-occurring disorders pose challenges in diagnosis because the symptoms are complex and severe. Health care providers may also have inadequate training and insufficient diagnostic tools. This paper explores the diagnostic challenges, psychopathology, and problems of co-occurring disordered patients. The paper argues that co-occurring disorders can be best approached through integrated treatment where mental and substance use disorders are treated simultaneously. 

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Complications of Using This Terminology in Various Settings

Co-occurring disorders are used to describe people with both mental disorders and substance use disorders (McIntosh, 2013). In some settings, the term is used as dual disorders while in other settings it is known as a dual diagnosis. The terms also refer to a combination of disorders that may include mental retardation and mental disorders. The terminology implies that a person suffers from only two disorders contemporaneously. However, patients with co-occurring disorders are diagnosed with one or more disorders associated with alcohol or drug abuse and other mental disorders.

Challenges in the Diagnosis of the Co-Occurring Disordered Client

The first characteristic of patients with co-occurring disorders that poses a challenge to their diagnosis is their inability to acquire understanding through the use of senses, thought, and experience. The impairments of cognitive ability may compromise the accuracy of instruments used to screen co-occurring disorders.  To correct this challenge, health care professionals should pre-examine the cognitive functioning when conducting an examination of the patient’s mental status (Ross & Peselow, 2012).  

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The abuse of multiple substances greatly impairs the accurate diagnosis of the co-occurring disorder symptoms. The determination of whether symptoms indicate the co-occurring disorder requires a careful assessment of family history. It distinguishes whether the patient suffers from the co-occurring disorder, substance use-induced disorder, or general medical condition. Most often, abusers of multiple substances show symptoms of an independent co-occurring disorder and multiple symptoms of substance-induced disorders caused as a result of intoxication.  The accuracy of diagnoses is impaired when substance use magnifies symptoms of independent co-occurring disorders. An example is when the use of substances magnifies hallucinations of schizophrenia or heightens violence among borderline personality disordered patients (Ross & Peselow, 2012).

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The diagnosis of the co-occurring disorder is greatly affected by the lack of accurate screening tool. Screening tools for co-occurring disorders require cultural appropriateness. Self-tests require literacy and sobriety, characteristics that are not attributed to this population.  So far, no instrument can satisfactorily identify co-occurring disorders. The most accurate tool is the ASI, which does not diagnose but only records symptoms of mental disorders (Doweiko, 2010).

Psychopathology and Associated Drugs

About 40% of the general population experiences a psychiatric disorder once in a lifetime. The rate escalates with people suffering from autism spectrum disorder. About 69% of this population suffers from the co-occurring disorder. Patients with co-occurring disorders are characterized by greater demand for control and help, low quality of life, poor prognosis, and worse outcomes (Doweiko, 2010).

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Drug abuse can cause symptoms of mental illness among the abusers. An example of the drug is the increased use of marijuana. Mental illnesses can also cause victims to abuse drugs for medical purposes. For example, most schizophrenia patients use tobacco to improve cognition. Though, both mental illnesses and drug-induced disorders are caused by frequent exposure to factors such as trauma, brain deficits, stress, and genetic vulnerabilities (Ross & Peselow, 2012).

Problems Associated with This Population

The population with co-occurring disorders is exposed to a wide range of problems. One of the major problems is that they stand a higher risk of rejection and homelessness, abuse, unemployment, suicide, legal difficulties, life-threatening diseases, and many other interpersonal problems. Patients with co-occurring disorders exhibit poorer outcomes than patients with single diagnoses. Some of the problems include worse compliance, challenges in managing their lives, and higher rehospitalization rates.

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The population faces the problem of insufficient appropriate integration programs. In counties such as Los Angeles, a high number of addiction programs impose restrictions on admission of patients diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. They are also restricted to the use of medication. The programs that have been established impose restrictions such as the use of medications, and the use of former clients as counselors does not fully meet the needs of dually diagnosed patients. The population also faces myriads of problems in treatment. The professionals in this field have a habit of missing the second diagnosis. Some mental health facilities do not offer treatment for haploid addiction, and this forces patients to choose one disorder to treat (Doweiko, 2010).

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Treatment Models

The realization of the existence of co-occurring disordered patients poses a great treatment challenge to mental health specialists. Treatment requires a medical and social approach. A significant social approach is to provide support to alcohol and substance addicts. The bible in Galatians 6:1 says that if a brother is overcome by sin, we should gently help them onto the right path. Drug addicts should be shown love and moral support.

The second approach is based on therapy. The earliest model was the traditional treatment system, which involved the treatment of one disorder at a time. Immediately the patient begins to control one disorder, mental health professionals refer the patient to another agency to begin treatment of the co-occurring disorder. The second model is where the patient is subjected to the parallel separate treatment by two agencies. The two agencies each treat one disorder simultaneously.  The challenge with this model is that clinicians face obstacles in coordinating treatment. The two systems also confuse the patients.  

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Current models solve these problems by integrating treatment services. The new models involve the treatment of both disorders simultaneously on site (Ross & Peselow, 2012). The achievements of the new model include a decline in substance abuse, hospitalization time, compliance to medication, and improved quality of life.

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