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Many adolescents suffering from addiction also suffer from mental health disorders and vice versa. Experts believe that both these conditions may fuel each other, thus aggravating the other. In the field of medicine, presence of such co-occurring disorders, i.e. an addiction and a mental health disorder, is known as comorbidity, co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.

Much of the study on comorbidity has been done on adults. Very little data related to comorbidity in adolescents is available. However, researches on adult co-morbidity has shown that a person with an addiction tends to have a mental illness as well. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 345,000 adolescents, aged 12-17 suffered from co-occurring disorders, of which nearly 276,000 endured severe impairment.

Learning about how the problem develops and what kind of treatment options are more likely to aid the teen heal can help parents choose the right treatment center and program while dealing with comorbidity or co-occurring disorders.

Understanding Comorbidity

According to experts, children suffering from comorbidity tend to show traits like hostility, aggressiveness, frustration, and impulsiveness. Such teens are often labeled as “troublesome”. Many a times they are avoided and face difficulties in making friends. This leads to experimentation with drugs and alcohol. This casual experimentation gradually turns into use, abuse, dependence, and then addiction.

Most of the times, what is evident is the teen’s drug use and parents find ways to control that without realizing that the underlying untreated mental disorder ensures that the teen does not achieve lasting recovery. In such conditions, the parents may feel frustrated as all their efforts prove to be in vain as every time the mental disorder returns, its symptoms are stronger and more pronounced. The most common mental disorders associated with teen comorbidity include depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, and attention/deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Chronic drug and alcohol use also leads to the development of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and even teenage onset of schizophrenia. Adolescents seeking refuge in drugs and alcohol unfortunately aggravate their symptoms, unknowingly worsening their condition

Getting “high” on drugs and alcohol initially brings a sense of elation and relief. However, as the addiction grows, the same substance aggravates the symptoms and the damage that the mental health disorder is causing. For example, adolescents suffering from depression tend to experience deeper bouts of misery when sober. Their brain cells refuse to release the “feel good” hormone called dopamine without the help of drugs or alcohol.

Further, the use of some drugs enhances the symptoms related to particular mental health disorders. For example, an individual suffering from schizophrenia may experience terrifying and overwhelming hallucinations, both auditory and visual, which might result in the teen being subjected to psychotic episodes of hallucinations. The teen might feel that the drug or alcohol use somehow soothed their nerves and calmed them down. However, in the long run, the drug and alcohol use is actually working towards damaging the mental health of the teen permanently.

Getting Help for Comorbidity

Instead of alcohol and drug, teens suffering from comorbidity should use therapy to help them overcome their disorders. Studies have shown that both mental illness and substance use disorder respond well to treatment. Treatment programs offering help for comorbidity often use the term “Dual Diagnosis”.

Therapies help a teen control their emotions and employ constructive ways to deal with their impulses. Group therapies as well as individual therapies help a teen suffering from comorbidity. Some teens might also need medication. However, medication must always be administered by registered mental health and addiction professionals.

ADEONA Healthcare is the leading solution provider for mental disorders, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders. We offer dual diagnosis rehabilitation for adolescents aged between 12 and 17 in a pleasant and summer camp-like residential environment. Our compassionate staff uses the latest, most effective and research-backed modalities to help the young patients lead healthier and more positive lives.

For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment programs, call our 24/7 helpline number (888) 997-3966 and speak with a member from our admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative to learn more about dual diagnosis and available treatment options.

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