What are “concurrent disorders”?

“Specialist still argue about whether mental illness is caused by substance use or does substance use cause mental illness, but one thing for sure, as more research is being done it has been recognized, beyond any doubt, that proper psychiatric diagnosis is imperative!!”

Addiction is honestly not so hard to understand. Our brains are actually hard-wired to appreciate and pursue rewards because they are absolutely critical to our survival! We crave, or desire, both food and sex, and these cravings are triggered by a variety of cues or signals like scents, places, noises and feelings. These are natural, life sustaining, brain functions that ensure our survival. The brain’s circuit system includes a safety mechanism that is responsible for inhibiting certain behaviours that might be harmful, but that mechanism is short circuited when drugs are introduced. Drugs make the management of cravings, and other desires that could cause harm, uncontrollable. In fact, exposure to some drugs, like heroin, opioids, and fentanyl, simply short circuit the otherwise powerful “safety” mechanism. Exposure to mind altering, brain damaging, drugs physically weakens the brains operating system, disabling the natural safety mechanism.

There is not a single factor that will warn someone that they will become addicted to alcohol or drugs, but scientists have identified several genetic and environmental factors that contribute to a person’s vulnerability. You can inherit a predisposition to addiction that makes you more likely than others to lose control of your safety mechanisms. Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, insomnia, ADD, ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, are associated with addiction although they don’t directly cause it. If you have parents or siblings that have addiction issues you are more likely to experience a similar outcome. If you have experienced trauma, violence, abuse or even a stressful life situation, job loss, exams, divorce, or even marriage, can increase your risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. It’s significant to recognize the variety of co-occurring, or concurrent, events and ailments that predispose someone to becoming addicted. These concurrent conditions increase the risk, or tendency, to self medicate which is often the first step toward addiction. Specialist still argue about whether mental illness is caused by substance use, or does substance use cause mental illness, but one thing for sure, as more research is being done it has been recognized, beyond any doubt, that proper psychiatric diagnosis is imperative. Treating addiction, without dealing with concurrent disorders will undoubtably lead to relapse.

Everyone is susceptible, every economic level, every ethnic group, and every age group. As with any disease, vulnerability, symptoms, reasons, and reactions, will vary from person to person. Generally, the more risk factors an individual has the more vulnerable they are to become overwhelmed by alcohol or drugs.

Read also: Are you being supportive or are you an “enabler”?Recognizing Self-DelusionAddiction recovery in Ontario & The program