1. The rate of substance abuse among the population with a mental illness is much higher than it is in the general population, and many people who drink or use drugs to excess do so because they have a mental disorder and are attempting to self medicate or feel better. Some mental disorders have a higher risk of drug and alcohol use than others though.
2. If someone has a dual diagnosis and they are suffering from mental health issues along with substance abuse then diagnosing all of the conditions that the patient has is crucial. If the mental illness is treated but the substance abuse is ignored, or vice versa, then the individual will not get better and will still have symptoms of at least one of these conditions. Both conditions must be treated at the same time for the treatment to be effective. Many programs handle substance abuse treatment or mental illness treatment but not both.
3. Substance abuse can interfere with a mental illness diagnosis, and in some individuals certain drugs or alcohol can cause symptoms that mimic mental disorders. In addition if the drug or alcohol abuse continues for a long period of time, and especially if these are excessive, brain cells may become damaged which can actually lead to mental disorders.
4. Co-occuring disorders can be treated, but to do this an accurate diagnosis for each of the problems must be found. This can take some time in some cases as the medical professionals tries to determine which mental illness and substance abuse problems the patient has. If the alcohol or drug abuse continues during the diagnostic period this makes it harder to properly diagnose mental illness and substance abuse which occur together.