The Detox Phase of Co-Occurring Disorders

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

Co-occurring disorders are complex issues that require a plan for intervention and treatment. When addressing both substance abuse and mental illness, it is crucial to have the support and guidance from specialists who are familiar with treating co-occurring disorders.

Integrating Forms of Treatment

Many different aspects can be utilized to approach the treatment of co-occurring disorders, and integrating forms of treatment can effectively help a person recover from mental illness.

While treating mental illness can be a pressing concern in treatment, it is often necessary to address the substance abuse issue first. Until a person is no longer under the influence of drugs or alcohol can treatment begin for mental illness and any other co-occurring disorder.

Once sobriety has been achieved, a person can begin to think more clearly, rationally, and utilize their cognitive abilities more effectively. Substance abuse often hinders this aspects of health and wellness, and until this is no longer a factor can psychotherapy methods be integrated in treatment.


Detoxification from substance abuse can be a difficult process, as the body must physically adjust to not having a particular substance in the body. When completed under the supervision of health professionals, detoxification can be done safely and efficiently.

Many treatment centers for substance abuse have a detox center that is integrated as part of treatment and recovery. Some hospital or inpatient units are also set up to help an individual safely detoxify from the drugs or alcohol that their bodies have become dependent on.

Senior man sitting outdoors with dogDetoxification methods may vary among centers. Some treatment centers use pharmacotherapy, or prescription drugs to help an individual safely withdraw from addicted substances. Another form of detox is known as Natural Assisted Detox, which helps a person detox from substances naturally and with the assistance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.


Finding an individualized approach is an important component of knowing which form of detox can help a person recover through this phase of treatment.

While mental illness is certainly a concerning part of co-occurring disorders and something that should be addressed in treatment, detoxing from substance abuse is a necessary first step that should occur in order to all treatment to be more effective.

If you or a loved one is searching for recovery from co-occurring illness, be sure to inquire about the detox phase of treatment to begin your process.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How has detox helped you or a loved one overcome co-occurring disorders?

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