How Can Medication Help Treat Co-Occurring Disorders

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope

The battle against an addiction can be one that is full of many challenges. Because addiction often involves several complex factors, recovery is process that takes time and effort for healing and restoration.

Co-Occurring Disorders

For individuals struggling with an addiction, it is not uncommon to also experience another type of mental illness. Because of the many similarities that overlap between mental illness and substance abuse, these two disorders and commonly co-occur with one another.

Mental disorders that may exist alongside substance abuse include anxiety disorders, mood and personality disorders, eating disorders, depression, and more.

For people whose reality includes the battle against substance abuse and mental illness, attempting to live life daily can become a struggle.

Therapy And Treatment Options

The important thing to know is that there is help available for recovery. Though it may seem overwhelming and complex, there are proven therapeutic techniques that can help an individual deal with the root cause of the addiction and mental illness.

Taking a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment can be an effective form of healing from co-occurring disorders and may include medical treatment, nutritional rehabilitation, psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.

Pharmacotherapy, or the medical treatment by means of prescription drugs, can be a therapeutic part of recovery from co-occurring disorders. When used under the guidance of a specialized physician and pharmacist, certain medications can help and individual find balance and healing.

Medication Use

supplement medicineThe following situations may be appropriate for pharmacotherapy as an individual recovers from co-occurring disorders:

  • Withdrawal from substance abuse: As an individual detoxifies from a substance that they have previously been addicted to, severe physiological symptoms may result. Some medications may help ease these symptoms and allow an individual to detox safely. Medications that may be used during this process include methadone and Benzodiazepines.
  • Management of mental illness: In some instances, antianxiety or antidepressant medications may be helpful in managing many of the symptoms and side effects that result from mental illness. As some mental illnesses result from an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, medication can help stabilize these hormones and lessen symptoms. Controlling symptoms that result from anxiety and/or depression can increase a person’s ability to focus on their recovery and healing.

With any medication use, supervision from a specialized medical physician is absolutely crucial and necessary. Be sure to speak with your doctor and treatment team if you are interested in using medication during your recovery from co-occurring disorders.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How has medication helped you during your recovery from co-occurring disorders?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 15th, 2015
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