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Depicting Addiction: Treatment & Recovery
-Co-Occurring Disorders-

Addiction is defined as a ‘maladaptive pattern’ of substance use that results in significant impairment or distress; when addiction turns into substance abuse, this impairment becomes clinically significant. When seeking treatment it is extremely important that the root cause of the addiction is understood. By considering the reasons behind the behavior, practitioners are able to provide treatment in an integrated manner that addresses both substance use and any present mental health conditions. Individuals experiencing both mental health and substance use challenges are considered dually diagnosed or experiencing “co-occurring disorders,” meaning that the two conditions occur simultaneously.

Persons diagnosed with drug abuse disorders are twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. 
Key Terms:

Dually diagnosed: clinically diagnosed with two conditions related to substance abuse and mental health.
Comorbidities: Two conditions likely to present together. For instance, high blood pressure and diabetes are common comorbidities.
Co-occurring disorders: Often used interchangeably with “dually diagnosed,” however, co-occurring disorders may exist even if they have not been diagnosed. Each condition can be established independent of the other.

Portions of this newsletter adapted from
PT Treatment & Recovery Cover
Picture This: Treatment & Recovery

Jennifer Morrison
Jennifer Morrison took home the PRISM Award for her performance  as a young woman living with bipolar disorder and addiction in the Lifetime TV Movie Bringing Ashley Home.
Watch Bringing Ashley Home on
Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 6:00 PM!
Suggestions for Depicting
Co-Occurring Disorders

Exploring co-occurring disorders in your characters and storylines presents the opportunity to explore reasons why past treatments for substance use may not have been effective. This topic can also provide an added layer of complexity by introducing a new aspect of your character that may not have previously been known. Consider these suggestions when depicting the underlying issues that may be present behind a character’s addiction and the challenges they may face to overcome it:
  • Researchers suggest that sustained drug or alcohol abuse may allow a victim to “separate psychologically from the environment” and blur or anesthetize painful memories or feelings. Think about how substance abuse may be present due to repercussions of sexual abuse or other trauma experienced throughout one’s life.
  • Trauma is often at the root of co-occurring disorders. Look for an opportunity to depict a character who is showing signs of a mental illness after a traumatic event and is attempting to self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs. Another angle is a veteran abusing prescription drugs to manage both physical pain and mental anguish.
  • Consider showing a possible link between a character’s co-occurring disorder and their family history with substance abuse or mental illness as a possible explanation of why a character has been diagnosed with a disorder.
  • Remember to explore the importance of treatment that is integrated and addresses not only the substance abuse but also any underlying mental health challenges.

 17 APA Call For Entries
The 17th Annual PRISM Awards Call for Entries is now open!

Click here to download the full submissions packet 

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EIC's FREE Technical Assistance Resource 
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To set up your own FREE First Draft Consultation with one of our experts contact Ashley Jupin: 
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 The 16th Annual PRISM 
Awards Showcase is available Online & On-Demand!
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Dr. Drew Pinsky hosts the
16th Annual PRISM Awards Showcase!

Click here for the full airing schedule and check out 

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