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Concurrent Disorders

Concurrent disorders are conditions in which a person experiences both mental illness and a substance abuse disorder. Concurrent disorders can include a wide range of combinations, such as an anxiety disorder and a drinking problem, or schizophrenia and cannabis dependence.

Signs and Symptoms

Because concurrent disorders refer to any combination of mental illness and substance use problems, there is no single symptom or group of symptoms common to all combinations. Some people who suffer from concurrent disorders may have very severe problems with both mental illness and substance use, making it difficult to function on a daily basis.

Causes / Physiology

There is no simple cause of concurrent disorders and each person’s situation is unique. For example, someone with mental illness may initially use substances to escape their problems or relieve symptoms and then subsequently develop a concurrent disorder.


The overall treatment plan should consider both the mental illness and substance use. People with concurrent disorders often have to go to one service for mental health treatment and another place for addiction treatment, but may experience the best success when both problems are addressed at the same time in a coordinated program. A person may receive psychosocial treatments (individual or group therapy), biological treatments (medications) or both.

Related Links

Canadian Mental Health Association: www.cmha.ca
Pinewood Centre: www.pinewoodcentre.org

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