Tag Archives: gateway drug

Comorbidity: Substance Abuse Disorders (SUDs)

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.

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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)

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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

Substance Abuse Grab-bag

On the subject of terminology, I thought it was rather odd that NHW made the statement that “the phrases ‘chemical dependency, addiction, and habit’ are still in use but less so than ‘substance abuse, use, or misuse;’” and then later citing “changes in the thinking in the field of chemical dependency.”  (Netherton, Holmes, & Walker, 1999, p. 241)  Perhaps that’s an indication that old habits are not easily broken.

The text again acknowledges that “the use of substances to cope, alter moods, or reach another level of consciousness has been an acceptable form of communication and expression for most of humankind.”  (Netherton et al., 1999, p. 242)  This statement alone suffices to encapsulate the difficulty of the task at hand.  Quite simply, there is a significant portion of the population that doesn’t recognize there is a problem.  “Substance use has become less stigmatizing among adolescents and is fiend less as a problem among their peers.”  (Netherton et al., 1999, p. 242)  Check and checkmate.

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I have trouble “getting behind” the disease model for substance use and abuse.  To my eyes, substance use appears more like a behavior than a disease.  In my experience, alcoholism is typically a secondary symptom stemming from another underlying physical cause or emotional disorder.  The degree and the prevalence of comorbidity would appear to support this position.  While I don’t disagree that the behavior needs to be recognized and addressed, I believe that addressing the underlying emotional disorder is critical to the long term success of these individuals.

Other substance-related models include the developmental model, the gateway model, problem behavior theory, cognitive models, the social learning model, and finally… the addictive behavior model.  I believe that social learning weighs heavily on the adolescent mind, and I wholly support the statement that “adolescents place great value on peer opinions and struggle to fit in.”  (Netherton et al., 1999, p. 247)  This serves as an entry point for the behavior, which then sets the tone for the addictive behavior model, which subsequently suggests that behaviors are a series of bad habits that have been over-conditioned to the extent that they become detrimental.

“Long-term substance use is related to psychiatric conditions such as suicide and depression, affective disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders.”  (Netherton et al., 1999, p. 248)  This is only the second time in this class where we have listed entire categories as being comorbid with a specific disorder.  Is this the first mention of dual diagnosis in this class, or have we previously addressed that?

Addressing treatment, the treatment options range from pretreatment services, through outpatient treatment, to intensive inpatient treatment and/or residential care.  “Some of the fundamental treatment services include structure, dual diagnosis capabilities, pharmacological interventions, arrangements with medical care, role modeling, client participation in the therapeutic milieu, family groups, individual and group therapy, school/vocational training, recreational programs, relapse prevention, and 12-step support.”  (Netherton et al., 1999, p. 255)

Of the specific treatment approaches and interventions, I most identified with the harm reduction approach.  “Harm reduction, harm minimization, and risk reduction are terms that describe methods based on the assumption that habits can be placed along a continuum ranging from lowest risk to highest amount of risk.”  (Netherton et al., 1999, p. 258)  The object, or the goal, is the transition the individual along the continuum to a behavior that is less harmful.  It seems to be more progressive in its approach, with its intent to “normalize rather than marginalize substance abusers.”  I don’t think this is necessarily the ideal treatment for all people who suffer from alcohol-related problems, but I think it would be a less invasive and potentially better received option than some of the more stringent measures.

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Netherton, S. D., Holmes, D., & Walker, C. E. (1999). Child and adolescent psychological disorders: A comprehensive textbook. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.