Module 3: Substance Abuse & Mental Health

There is a high prevalence of comorbidity between substance use disorders and other mental disorders, despite specific differences between their epidemiology. This comorbidity can be very complex, even requiring assessing the risk factors contributing to the high prevalence of both groups of disorders and establishing causality or directionality, which can prove challenging, especially within each evaluation.

Mental health factors can be risk factors for substance abuse. However, identifying this dual diagnosis can be difficult due to the inadvertent and often confusing symptoms, the integrated treatment approach that is required, and the lack of support in an individual and communal context. 

This lack of support can be originated from an underlying stigma directed to mental health and substance abuse disorders. The social repercussions that patients suffering from this comorbidity face range from deficiencies in the treatment from health care and treatment centers, criminal justice systems, communal institutions, and the internalization of the perceived stigma that they apply to themselves.

Therefore, the implementation of standardized procedures that guide the screening and treatment of this comorbidity and even more, the development of communication strategies to counter stigma, is fundamental to prevent adverse outcomes in the population suffering from the burden of this comorbidity.