Friday, April 9, 2010

National Call to Action: Identifying the Need for Specialized Treatment and Care of Concurrent Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders



An April 9th news release from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse:
Ottawa, April 9, 2010 – The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) — Canada’s non-governmental organization dedicated to reducing the harms associated with alcohol and drugs — today announced the release of Substance Abuse in Canada: Concurrent Disorders, the third in a series of biennial publications that highlight key contemporary substance abuse issues in Canada and identifies areas where action is needed.

Written by members of CCSA’s Scientific Advisory Council — a group of Canada’s leading biomedical, neuroscience and clinical experts — and other leading clinicians and academics in the field, Concurrent Disorders takes an in-depth look at the state of concurrent disorders and provides a call to action to address this significant health issue.

Concurrent disorders — cases in which individuals have both a mental health problem and a substance use problem — are currently poorly understood by the public and inadequately addressed by either Canada’s primary healthcare system or specialized mental health and addiction services.

"Concurrent disorders are generally seen as unlinked and separate as a result of mental health and addiction systems that are compartmentalized and largely independent of each other. The result is that clients are often being treated for one of their disorders but not the other," said Rita Notarandrea, CCSA’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer. "As this report indicates, treating each problem separately leads to poor client outcomes that are characterized by frequent relapses and crises, placing undue strain on the healthcare system and its professionals. Concurrent Disorders is a significant first step towards identifying the actions we must take to effectively address this public health issue."

The publication takes an in-depth look at six areas within the field of concurrent disorders, including the interplay between substance use and anxiety, stress and trauma, impulsivity, mood, and psychosis.

"The rationale for considering concurrent disorders a topic of special significance is in many ways self-evident: the two disorders frequently coexist; they often share common biological, psychological and social roots; and these co-occurring disorders represent a major health challenge," said Dr. Franco Vaccarino, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Chair of CCSA’s Scientific Advisory Council. "The limited ability of our parallel substance use and mental health clinical and community programs to approach concurrent disorders in a coordinated, integrated manner represents a significant barrier to effectively treating those affected."

The cost of substance abuse and mental health to Canadians is considerable. In a 2002 study by CCSA, substance abuse disorders were estimated to cost Canada more than $40 billion annually. In addition, a 2001 Public Health Agency of Canada study estimated the price tag of mental health problems in Canada to be $14.4 billion annually. Collectively, substance abuse and mental health issues account for more than $54 billion in costs to Canadian society each year and exact an immeasurable toll on individuals, their family and friends.

The percentage of costs that can be attributed to those with concurrent disorders is currently unknown. However, findings within Concurrent Disorders suggest that these individuals likely account for a large portion of the total, as they have a limited ability to cope with everyday challenges, experience higher unemployment, and at the extreme, can become homeless, socially marginalized or criminally involved.

A Call to Action

Concurrent Disorders identifies the critical need for Canada to address the issue of concurrent disorders through:
  • Policy makers, educators, researchers and health professionals acknowledging that specialized treatment for those with concurrent disorders is a major priority for Canada;
  • Increased scientific programs that provide a better understanding of the processes and mechanisms underlying concurrent disorders, and that address current gaps in research and research funding;
  • Increased community addiction programs that are better equipped to deal with clients with concurrent disorders;
  • Integration of clinical practice guidelines in the substance use disorder and mental health fields that reflects a unified national approach to treatment and care;
  • An educational platform that increases the number of trained professionals with a common understanding of concurrent disorders and treatment practices;
  • A focus on youth and early detection, as concurrent disorders often have an onset during adolescence and are best treated early; and
  • The development of prevention and treatment strategies that focus on life stressors and trauma as significant risk factors in the development and recurrence of concurrent disorders.
To read the full Concurrent Disorders publication or the Highlights report, please click here.

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About CCSA:

With a legislated mandate to reduce alcohol- and other drug-related harms, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) provides leadership on national priorities, fosters knowledge translation within the field and creates sustainable partnerships that maximize collective efforts. CCSA receives funding support from Health Canada.


For further information, please contact:

Annie Boucher, Fuse Communications
Tel.: (613) 863-3702
Email: boucher@fusecommunications.ca

Also see:

National approach needed on care for mentally ill who abuse substances: report

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