Treating Adolescents with Co-occurring Disorders

co-occurring-disorderThe disease of addiction often goes hand in hand with a variety of mental illnesses; depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are among the most common of what are known as co-occurring disorders. When treating addiction, addressing co-occurring disorders is both difficult and crucial to a successful recovery.

Many adolescents dealing with substance abuse issues have a co-occurring disorder, in fact, more than half of adolescents entering substance use treatment (55-74%) also have a co-occurring disorder, such as depression, ADHD and trauma-related problems, reports Medical News Today. Sadly, many adolescents who are treated for substance abuse do not have their mental health issues addressed, which means they face poor odds for success after treatment.

Substance abuse clinicians have little to go off of when treating co-occurring disorders in adolescents, according to the article. There has been little research on the subject, which could aid counselors in the field. However, recent findings suggest that when treating this demographic, using a combination of cognitive-behavioral and family therapies, known as the Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA), may be the most beneficial.

While more research is needed to determine how effective A-CRA is with treating the gamut of co-occurring disorders, the authors believe that substance abuse clinicians should not hesitate using A-CRA when it comes to offering comprehensive treatment to adolescents.

“The Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA) is a well-tested intervention for substance use disorders that has demonstrated potential as a treatment for co-morbid youth,” says lead author Dr. Susan H. Godley. “This paper shows that several A-CRA procedures are consistent with procedures in evidence-supported treatments for common co-occurring mental health problems, and as an example, describes in detail how A-CRA can be used in the treatment of co-occurring substance use and depression disorders.”