Rates and sequelae of the coexistence of substance use and other psychiatric disorders

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Brems, Christiane ; Johnson, Mark E. ; Wells, Rebecca S. ; Burns, Randall ; Kletti, Nicholas (2002)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Circumpolar Health (issn: 1797-237X, eissn: 1239-9736)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ijch.v61i3.17456
  • Subject: comorbidity, dual diagnosis, mental health, MICA, substance use

Objectives: Despite a growing body of investigations documenting the coexistence of substance use and other psychiatric disorders in a variety of patient populations, no data about comorbidity in the inpatient mental health system in Alaska have been published in scientific journals, and only limited data exist nationwide about coexistence rates in public psychiatric hospitals. Method: A retrospective population based study was performed on the entire population of psychiatric patients hospitalized at Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) between 1993 and 2001. To explore rates of comorbidity, 5,862 patients (who accrued 10,656 visits) were classified according to their diagnostic status; to explore clinical and socio-demographic difference between patients with and without coexisting disorder, univariate analyses were calculated. Results: The study revealed startlingly high rates of comorbidity that have been rising steadily since the early 1990’s. In fact, comorbidity has become the rule, not the exception, among patients receiving services at API, with over 60% presenting with coexisting substance use symptoms. Complicating issues even further, these comorbid patients presented with more complex social and interpersonal circumstances, more complex clinical issues, different courses of treatment, and greater symptom complexity than psychiatric-only patients. Conclusions: 1.) Individual patient level - Providers for psychiatric inpatients must become more prepared to deal with coexisting substance abuse symptoms; policy makers must become more aware of the need for such patients to have smooth transitions from mental health to substance abuse treatment systems. 2.) Systemic-administrative level - Educators must better prepare providers to deal with this challenging clientele.(Int J Circumpolar Health 2002; 61(3):224-244)Keywords: comorbidity, dual diagnosis, mental health, MICA, substance use
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