Co-Occurring Mental Illness & Substance Abuse
Co-occurring disorders (also referred to as “dual diagnosis”) is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Either disorder—substance use or mental illness—can develop first. Some agencies still have programs termed MICA services (Mentally Ill Chemical Abuse). Office of Mental Health specifically licenses some mental health clinics for “integrated” substance abuse (or “chemical dependence”) services. Individuals with serious mental illness will be assessed for drug and alcohol use and abuse, and provided treatment which addresses using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
When arranging an appointment at a mental health clinic or other outpatient mental health services, provide the Intake/Admissions staff with information about your or your relative’s drug and alcohol use or abuse. Individuals seeking mental health services often underreport the amount or frequency of their substance use, or are unaware of the problems such use or abuse is causing. Using alcohol when taking prescribed drugs may make these drugs less effective, ineffective or cause unintended side effects.
Medical health providers will generally take into account co-occurring mental illness and substance use when prescribing treatment. Few organizations, however, specifically treat co-occurring disorders. Descriptions in Adult Treatment and Substance Use Disorder sections will note if they provide co-occurring, MICA or dual-diagnosis treatment.