In the most recent DSM, the American Psychiatric Association replaced terminology such as “substance addiction” and “substance abuse disorder” with the term “Substance Use Disorder” to describe the repeated use of alcohol and/or drugs leading to health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.
In order to receive this diagnosis, an individual must display evidence of impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria. Because mood disorders increase vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction, the diagnosis and treatment of the mood disorder can reduce the risk of subsequent drug use. Because the inverse may also be true, the diagnosis and treatment of drug use disorders may reduce the risk of developing other mental illnesses and, if they do occur, lessen their severity or make them more amenable to effective treatment.
When patients have both a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Duel diagnosis is so common that many people believe that drugs play a role in the development of mental illness. In most instances, this is not the case because both substance use disorder and other mental illnesses are caused by overlapping factors such as the involvement of similar brain regions, genetic vulnerabilities, and/or early exposure to stress or trauma.
Although drug abuse and addiction can happen at any age, drug use typically starts in adolescence, a period when the first signs of mental illness commonly appear. This may be related to the fact that significant changes in the brain occur during adolescence; enhancing vulnerability to drug use and the development of addiction and other mental disorders.
Designed to equally address drug and mental health problems, The Seven Challenges® Program works with adolescents diagnosed with substance use disorder from where they are at with their usage, and not where their families and counselors WISH them to be. This is an important difference and leads to better outcomes. Counselors work to build mutual respect, allowing adolescents to share openly and honestly about themselves and how their behavior and usage affects, not only themselves, but also those around them.
In groups, trained counselors help youth who are initially reluctant to admit to drug problems to recognize what is going well and what is problematic in their lives. Whatever is not going well is identified as an “issue”. In Seven Challenges sessions, counselors teach young people to work on their issues through the “challenge process” and although counselors in the program provide a structure for groups and a framework for individual sessions, in response to the immediate needs of youth, the content of each session is exceptionally flexible and not pre-scripted.
This process is used to help adolescents make thoughtful decisions, including healthier decisions about drugs. Rather than imposing and demanding abstinence from the outside, organizations like BHSA use The Seven Challenges program to support young people diagnosed with substance use disorder in taking power over their own lives and affecting healthy life saving changes.
Dealing with substance abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction is never easy, and it’s even more difficult when suffers also struggle with mental health problems. But there is hope. There are plenty of treatments available to help suffers on the road to recovery. With the right support, self-help, and treatment, those diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder can overcome a co-occurring disorder, reclaim their sense of self, and get their lives back on track.