Many with 'Co-Occurring' Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Are Unaware They Need Treatment, Federal Study Says

WASHINGTON, Jun 24, 2004 - People with "co-occurring" serious mental illness and substance abuse often do not recognize that they need treatment for either or both conditions, a new report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates.

The data show that more than half (52 percent) of the four million adults 18 and older with co-occurring serious mental illness and a substance use disorder, received neither mental health nor specialty substance use treatment during the past year. An estimated 34 percent only received treatment for mental disorders, 2 percent only received specialty substance abuse treatment, and close to 12 percent received treatment for both mental and substance use disorders.

The report also shows that 61 percent of those diagnosed with both a serious mental illness and a substance use disorder, who had not received treatment for either illness, perceived no unmet need for treatment.

"The time has come to ensure that all Americans who experience co- occurring mental and substance use disorders have an opportunity for treatment and recovery," SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie said. "Unfortunately, there continue to be many barriers to appropriate treatment and support services. Clearly our systems of services must continue to evolve to reflect the growing evidence base that promotes integrated treatment and supportive services. Both disorders must be addressed as primary illnesses and treated as such."

The new report, "Adults with Co-Occurring Serious Mental Illness and a Substance Use Disorder," was released today by SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie at a conference in Washington D.C. on the complexities of co-occurring medical conditions. The three-day conference is sponsored by SAMHSA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The report notes that 17.5 million adults (8 percent of adults) aged 18 or older were estimated to have serious mental illness in 2002. Of these, 4 million (23 percent of adults with serious mental illness) were also dependent on or abused alcohol or an illicit drug. Among adults without serious mental illness, the rate of dependence or abuse was only about 8 percent.

The report can be accessed at http://www.oas.samhsa.gov.