TORONTO — People with both mental illness and an addiction would benefit from a pulling together of services to treat and care for them, suggests a new report that calls for a national approach to the problem.
The report released Friday by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse points to research that shows more than half of the people who seek help for addiction also have a mental illness.
And it says 15 to 20 per cent of those using mental health services are also living with an addiction — abusing alcohol or drugs.
To that, you could add the mental illness side effects of traumatic brain injury, and you have the top reasons for homelessness and poverty in Canada, and the top reasons why the entire raft of social services we see in Canada are so badly needed.
In British Columbia alone, an estimated 130,000 individuals meet the criteria for concurrent disorders, which is a mixture of problems and illnesses people face, the report says.
“People seeking help for co-occurring mental health and addiction problems often have difficulty finding appropriate services,” Michael Kirby, chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, says in a foreword to the paper.
“Historically, programs have often required that one disorder, either a person’s mental illness or addiction, be identified as the main one rather than recognizing that the two are interconnected.”
The report, entitled Concurrent Disorders, was written by members of the centre’s scientific advisory council, which includes clinical, biomedical and neuroscience experts.
It notes that the risk of having an addiction is two to five times greater in people with anxiety problems compared to the general population.
And people with schizophrenia are almost five times more likely to have a substance abuse problem, the report says.
Use of drugs or alcohol can “hasten the onset of psychotic disorders, worsen both the symptoms and the course of illness,” it says.
“Treating each problem separately leads to poor client outcomes that are characterized by frequent relapses and crises, placing undue strain on the health-care system and its professionals,” Rita Notarandrea, the centre’s deputy chief executive officer, says in a release.
Specialized training programs are needed for health-care professionals from the different sectors to share their expertise, the report suggests.
Another issue raised is the need for early detection.
“There is a need to ensure that we have practices in place to identify individual and group risk factors early.
“And to intervene with integrated care programs aimed at preventing concurrent disorders or reducing the severity and progression of the symptoms and harms,” the report says.