Comorbid, or comorbidity, is literally defined as “recurring together.” (Shiel, Jr. & Stoppler, 2008, p. 94) For our purposes, comorbidity will refer to cases where two or more psychiatric conditions coexist, and where one of the conditions is a substance abuse disorder (SUD). “There are 11 groups of substances specifically discussed in the DSM-IV: alcohol; amphetamines and related sympathomimetics; caffeine; cannabis; cocaine; hallucinogens; inhalants; nicotine; opiates; phencyclidine and related drugs (PCP); and sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics.” (Colman, 2009, p. 741) Any one of the above substances, or combination of the above substances, can contribute to and be related this discussion of comorbidity with SUDs.
Although this list is by no means exhaustive, “long-term substance use is related to psychiatric conditions such as suicide and depression, affective disorders, eating disorders (ED), and personality disorders (PD).” (Netherton, Holmes, & Walker, 1999, p. 248) Increased risk of mood disorders has been documented across all substance categories and across all mood related diagnoses. (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 287) Substance-Related Disorders are commonly comorbid with many mental disorders, including Conduct Disorder in adolescents; Antisocial and Borderline Personality Disorders, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder. (American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 2000, p. 204) Schneier et al. (2010) also concluded that alcohol use disorders and social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a prevalent dual diagnosis, associated with substantial rates of additional co-morbidity.
ADHD represents a risk factor for substance abuse. ADHD patients with a high degree of nicotine consumption may be consuming large quantities as a form of self-medication. Nicotine and alcohol, when combined, pose a markedly greater risk for the development of other addictions. (Ohlmeier et al., 2007, p. 542) There is “high comorbidity between heavy drinking and heavy smoking.” (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 266) These admissions seem to support the premise that alcohol and nicotine continue to serve as “gateway drugs” for people whom suffer from ADHD.
“In terms of clinical presentation, a concurrent Personality Disorder (PD) diagnosis is associated with an earlier age of onset of alcohol-related problems, increased addiction severity, more secondary drug use, more psychological distress, and greater impairment in social functioning. As for course in addiction treatment, a concurrent PD diagnosis has been associated with premature discontinuation of treatment, earlier relapse, poorer treatment response, and worse long-term outcome.” (Zikos, Gill, & Charney, 2010, p. 66) Cluster B (Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic) Personality Disorders (PDs) appear to be particularly prevalent, perhaps because the link between substance dependency and antisocial behavior can be found genetically. (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 263)
“Among individuals with schizophrenia, between 40% and 50% also meet criteria for one or more substance use disorders.” (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 288) Comorbid substance use complicates adherence to sometimes complex schizophrenia treatment regimens. Poor adherence to treatment results in worsening of schizophrenia symptoms, relapse, worsening of overall condition, increased utilization of health care facilities, re-hospitalization, reduced quality of life, social alienation, increased substance abuse, unemployment, violence, high rates of victimization, incarceration, and death. (Hardeman, Harding, & Narasimhan, 2010, p. 405-406) The compounding effect of substance abuse on the quality of life for individuals with schizophrenia can’t be understated. Substance abuse is particularly common and also worsens the course of schizophrenia. (Buckley, Miller, Lehrer, & Castle, 2009, p. 396)
Differential diagnosis and treatment can sometimes be a troublesome proposition. Comorbidity complicates the diagnosis, treatment, and clinical course of Substance Abuse Disorders (SUDs). (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 287) “If symptoms precede the onset of substance use or persist during extended periods of abstinence from the substance, it is likely that the symptoms are not substance induced.” (4th ed., text rev.; DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 210) Carbaugh and Sias (2010) concluded that successful outcomes can be increased through proper diagnosis and early intervention, at least in the case of comorbid Bulimia Nervosa and substance abuse. Prevention of substance use disorders can help alleviate or decrease much impairment in psychiatric patients in particular. (Powers, 2007, p. 357) Furthermore, a review of treatments for patients with severe mental illness and comorbid substance use disorders concluded that mental health treatment combined with substance abuse treatment is more effective than treatment occurring alone for either disorder or occurring concurrently without articulation between treatments. (Hoblyn, Balt, Woodard, & Brooks, 2009, p. 54)
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Blaney, P. H., & Millon, T. (2009). Oxford textbook of psychopathology (2nd ed.). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
Buckley, P. F., Miller, B. J., Lehrer, D. S., & Castle, D. J. (2009, Mar). Psychiatric comorbidities and schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 35(2), 383-402. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbn135
Carbaugh, R. J., & Sias, S. M. (2010, Apr). Comorbidity of bulimia nervosa and substance abuse: Etiologies, treatment issues, and treatment approaches. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 32(2), 125-138. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=2026599321&sid=2&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Colman, A. M. (2009). Oxford dictionary of psychology (3rd ed.). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.
Hardeman, S. M., Harding, R. K., & Narasimhan, M. (2010, Apr). Simplifying adherence in schizophrenia. Psychiatric Services, 61(4), 405-408. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=2006767471&sid=3&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Hoblyn, J. C., Balt, S. L., Woodard, S. A., & Brooks, J. O. (2009, Jan). Substance use disorders as risk factors for psychiatric hospitalization in bipolar disorder. Psychiatric Services, 60(1), 50-55. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1654365811&sid=6&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Netherton, S. D., Holmes, D., & Walker, C. E. (1999). Child and adolescent psychological disorders: A comprehensive textbook. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.
Ohlmeier, M. D., Peters, K., Kordon, A., Seifert, J., Wildt, B. T., Weise, B., … Schneider, U. (2007, Aug). Nicotine and alcohol dependence in patients with comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Alcohol and Alcoholism : International Journal of the Medical Council on Alcoholism, 42(6), 539-543. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agm069
Powers, R. A. (2007, May). Alcohol and drug abuse prevention. Psychiatric Annals, 37(5), 349-358. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1275282831&sid=5&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Schneier, F. R., Foose, T. E., Hasin, D. S., & Heimberg, R. G. (2010, Jun). Social anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorder co-morbidity in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Psychological Medicine, 40(6), 977-988. doi: 10.1017/S0033291709991231
Shiel, W. C., Jr., & Stoppler, M. C. (Eds.). (2008). Webster’s new world medical dictionary (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing.
Zikos, E., Gill, K. J., & Charney, D. A. (2010, Feb). Personality disorders among alcoholic outpatients: Prevalence and course in treatment. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(2), 65-73. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1986429431&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD