Managing Co-occurring Alcohol and Other Drug and Mental Health Conditions

This section provides information and training tools for managing co-occurring Alcohol and Other Drug and Mental Health Conditions.

Page last updated: 10 January 2018

Co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions

Comorbidity refers to the occurrence of one or more drug and alcohol use disorder with one or more mental health condition. There are a number of possible explanations as to why two or more disorders may co-occur. It is most likely, however, that the relationship between comorbid conditions is one of mutual influence.

Population estimates indicate that more than one-third of individuals with a drug and alcohol use disorder have at least one comorbid mental health disorder; however, the rate is even higher among those in drug and alcohol treatment programs. The first step in responding to comorbidity is being able to identify the person’s needs. Once identified, symptoms of mental health conditions may be effectively managed while the person is undergoing drug and alcohol treatment.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales developed the Comorbidity Guidelines in connection to the Australian Department of Health. To support the Comorbidity guidelines, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre have created an online platform for training, education and resources.

Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings, 2nd edition

The guidelines aim to provide alcohol and other drug workers with up-to-date, evidence-based information on the management of comorbid mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings.

Summary of Guidelines

  • Developed by the National Health and Medical Research Centre in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of New South Wales, these guidelines represent an updated and revised version of the first edition Comorbidity Guidelines published in 2009.
  • The Guidelines are not a policy directive and are not intended to replace or take precedence over local policies and procedures.
  • The Guidelines should be used in conjunction with existing guidelines and discipline-specific practice standards.
  • The Guidelines do not provide formal recommendations, but rather guidance for alcohol and other drug workers when working with clients who have comorbid mental health and alcohol and other drug conditions.
  • The Guidelines are based on the best available evidence and draw upon the experience and knowledge of clinicians, researchers, consumers, and carers.
  • The project was funded by the Department of Health under the Substance Misuse Service Delivery Grants Fund.

Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings, 2nd edition

Important note

If you received a hardcopy of the 2nd edition of the Guidelines before 30 September 2016, please note that there is an error on page 245. Please replace page 245 in your hardcopy of the Guidelines.

Online Training

The Comorbidity Guidelines website provides evidence-based information, training and resources to assist with the management of co-occurring, or comorbid, alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions.

The website and online training program was developed by the Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney.

The training module offers training modules, with each module containing a quiz, with applicants receiving a certificate of completion once each module is successfully completed.

The Resource section contains worksheets, handouts and how to guides.

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