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Substance Use Disorder Treatment

In the United States there is a wealth of treatment services for individuals who suffer from substance use disorder. Providing interventions when possible is critical in that individuals who do not receive treatment are more likely to end up serving prison time, usually for drug related charges. Current statistics indicate that approximately 90 percent of inmates who suffer from a mental health condition also suffer from a substance abuse problem. While the need for joint treatment options is great, few such options exist. And, even though the evidence indicates providing treatment services on a probation basis can lower costs to society, states are more likely to dedicate financial resources toward building new prisons due to the false perception that impacted individuals require long term treatment. While the federal government has initiated a new plan to deal with substance abuse, the comorbid nature between mental health conditions and substance abuse remains largely ignored.

Mental health issues and substance abuse are often treated as two separate categories, yet the evidence strongly suggests the two are highly interrelated.Substance Use Disorder Treatment

  • The comorbidity rates among adolescents with both mental health disorders and substance addictions are much higher than previously thought. In a sample of 401 adolescents, 76 percent suffered from both mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders.
  • In a like study involving in-patient settings, 90 percent of adolescents suffered from both mental health disorders and substance use disorders.
  • Research by Paper Masters maintains that adolescents suffering from comorbid conditions have much poorer treatment outcomes than do adolescents suffering from substance abuse alone.
  • Past study findings suggest that adolescents with mental health disorders tend to abuse substances at a much earlier age than do children who abuse substances alone. These adolescents also report having more problems at home, including suffering from parental neglect and sexual or physical abuse.

Adolescents with comorbid conditions are more likely to have problems maintaining friendships, establishing relationships with peers, and performing well in school. Our research notes that it is reported that adolescents who abuse substances and suffer from mental health disorders are far more likely to be arrested and to have frequent thoughts of suicide.

Finding suitable treatment options for adolescents suffering from both mental health disorders and substance abuse problems is difficult due to the lack of collaboration between mental health facilities and facilities that treat individuals addicted to substances. In many cases the adolescent may be referred to two separate treatment specialists who fail to collaborate on the best form of treatment. This greatly increases the possibility that each treating professional will prescribe a treatment regimen that conflicts with that prescribed by the other treating specialist. A second major problem arises from the fact that families are often required to attend treatment with the minority age family member. When both treatment providers require family therapy, the family may not be able to cooperate due to a scarcity of time and other resources. The adolescent forced to seek services from two different providers may develop a hostile attitude toward the process and an inability to develop a positive working relationship with either provider.

Without proper treatment, many of the youths who suffer from substance abuse and mental health disorders combined will end up in prison, thereby increasing the cost of dealing with these youths to society. In a study Messina, Burdon, Hagopian, and Prendergast (2004) found that little is known about the success rate of substance abuse and mental health services offered jointly to offenders in prison. One reason for this is because very little research has been conducted in this area. Currently, prisons are overcrowded and states are struggling to build more prison space, in part due to the number of drug users given prison time instead of treatment options. Numerous studies confirm that sending occasional or social drug users to prison increases the cost of justice to society and fails to provide an adequate form of treatment for addicted individuals. This is especially true when the substance abuser also suffers from a mental disorder.

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