On Thursday, New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon announced on Twitter that he is stepping away from the game to focus on his mental health. According to a report, Gordon also violated the terms of the NFL’s substance use policy. His decision brings up an important conversation about co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

We applaud Gordon’s decision and support him as he seeks long-lasting recovery. Earlier this year, Gordon missed training camp while he sought counseling for anxiety. It’s quite common for someone with mental health issues to also have substance use issues. Gordon has been suspended in the past for repeated violation of the league’s substance use policy.

Co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders affect approximately 8 million people in the United States. They’re especially dangerous because one disorder can mask the symptoms of the other, and too often people will seek treatment for only one of them. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “the consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death.”

The following are signs and symptoms to look out for, but these can vary from person to person:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Loss of control over use of substances
  • Developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling like you need a drug to be able to function

Treatment options will also vary from person to person, but there are ways to treat both a mental health issue and substance use issue.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests the following services, as per consultation with a therapist, counselor, or doctor:

  • Detox
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Residential housing
  • Psychotherapy
  • Support groups
  • Medications

We at the Gándara Center understand the immediate need for treating co-occurring disorders. We’re currently hiring to staff a 16-bed enhanced residential rehabilitation services program for women with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

The program, based in Ludlow, will take a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, employing evidence-based and peer support methods including community, clinical, psychiatric, and medication-assisted treatment services. Wellness resources and activities will help patients build protective measures against co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, and expose them to social skill-building opportunities as a pathway to achieving long-term recovery. These may include art, music, and fitness events; community fellowships; and mental health support groups.

We identified 14 Chestnut Place, the former location of the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts, as the site for the program. The opening date has yet to be determined.

 

Featured image via Erik Drost(CC BY 2.0)