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Division of Substance Abuse Services

Addictions Treatment and Recovery Services

Co-Occurring Disorders (COD)

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) uses the term "co-occurring disorders" to describe a person, or service recipient, as having at least one mental disorder (MD) along with a substance use disorder (SUD) co-occurring at the same time. The term co-occurring disorders is often used interchangeably with the term dual diagnosis, co-morbidity, concurrent disorders, and double trouble. "Co-occurring disorders" is becoming the prevalent term and is therefore the "term of choice" for TDMHSAS.

People, or service recipients, with a combined mental disorder (depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder, etc.) and substance use disorder (alcohol and/or drugs) are a fast growing segment of residents in our communities. Co-occurring disorders are more common than one might think:

  • 5.6 million adults had both serious psychological distress and substance use disorders. Only 8.4% received treatment for both mental health and substance abuse (2006 Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA).
  • 43% of youth receiving mental health services in the United States have been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders (CMHS, 2001).
  • Research and clinical findings illustrate that co-occurring disorders is not a rare occurrence but rather is a problem that occurs with consistent frequency. This is truly the rule, not the exception. Therefore, it is important that specialized COD programs and on-going community based support groups be available for people who have COD (Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons with Co-occurring Disorders, a Treatment Improvement Protocol, Tip 42, SAMHSA, 2005).

Increasingly, the nation and the State of Tennessee is recognizing that existing systems of care designed to treat people, or service recipients, with single diagnoses are less effective for people, or service recipients, with co-occurring disorders. Proper diagnosis and treatment are critical to recovery since symptoms of mental disorders and substance use disorders worsen over time. Treating co-occurring disorders integratively will cut down on relapse and enhance recovery for people with co-occurring disorders. So in an effort to address this issue, TDMHSAS is active in developing strategies to better serve the co-occurring disorders person, or service recipient, and their family in Tennessee. TDMHSAS is committed to:

  • Educating professionals about co-occurring disorders and the need for integrated services;
  • Informing the public about co-occurring disorders and how to access services; and
  • Developing more integrated treatment services for co-occurring disorder service recipients and their families.

For more information about co-occurring disorders please contact Ken Horvath in the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), Division of Substance Abuse Services.

Co-Occurring Disorders Links