Epidemiology and Dual Disorders

\r\n The co-occurrence of a severe mental illness and a substance abuse or dependence disorder is common enough to be considered the expectation more than the exception. Substance use disorders can occur at any phase of mental illness.

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\r\n Causes of this comorbidity may include self-medication, genetic vulnerability, environment or lifestyle, underlying shared origins, and/or a common neural substrate. The consequences of dual diagnosis include poor medication compliance, physical comorbidities, poor health, poor self-care, increased risk of suicide or risky behaviour, and even possible incarceration.. Screening, assessment, and integrated treatment plans for dual diagnosis to address both the substance use disorder and the mental illness are strongly recommended.

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\r\n The strongest associations involve externalizing mental disorders and alcohol-drug dependence. Mental disorders are associated with alcohol-drug use, problems among users, dependence among problem users, and persistence among people with lifetime dependence. These dual diagnoses are associated with severity and persistence of both mental and alcohol-drug disorders. A wider range of mental disorders is associated with nicotine dependence. Prospective studies confirm this temporal order, although significant predictive associations are reciprocal. Analyses comparing active and remitted mental disorders suggest that some primary mental disorders are markers and others are causal risk factors for secondary substance disorders. Epidemiologic research can be used to help target and evaluate interventions aimed at preventing secondary substance use disorders by treating early-onset primary mental disorders.

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