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Since the 1980s, multiple scientific studies have documented the high co-occurrence of both mental health and substance use challenges among people who have either. While the exact numbers vary from study to study, it is generally accepted that people with mental health disorders are about twice as likely to also have a drug use disorder compared to the general population, while people with drug use disorders are roughly twice as likely to suffer also from mental health disorders. 

But for the most part, behavioral health care providers still focus on whatever the “primary” diagnosis is when we seek professional support. Our provider systems are still mostly focused on diagnosis, not the whole person. There are providers within those systems who understand the nuance and complexity of the interrelationship between drug use and mental health challenges, but insurers and billing codes generally force them to choose a single course of treatment.  

The good news—things are changing! Since the very first Certified Peer Specialist training, the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network has promoted a holistic and self-directed approach to recovery and wellness, focused on achieving personal goals rather than treating systems, or, in the words of the late Sherry Jenkins Tucker, “Focusing treatment on the symptoms of those living with co-occurring concerns can become an endless game of whack-a-mole, leaving the provider exhausted and the person needing support without faith in their ability to receive it. Peer support provides a better way, an effective way, a hopeful way, to support people in achieving and maintaining long-term dual recovery. Our efforts to support dual recovery are not limited to mutual support groups. Support for dual recovery is infused in all of our trainings and support to peers, including peer mentoring, forensic peer mentoring, the support provided at our Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers, and on our Peer2Peer Warm Line. Supporting the whole person is what the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network does.” 

We hope you will join us for one of our online or in-person Double Trouble in Recovery twelve-step meetings, or Y’All Recovery All Recovery meetings, and learn more about how Georgians are living successful and purposeful lives of dual recovery every day.


For Further Reading:

Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses (NIH)
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders (SAMHSA)

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