The Connection Between OCD and Drug Abuse

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OCD and Drug Abuse

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is within the anxiety spectrum of disorders. Individuals with OCD experience recurring and irrational obsessive thoughts that produce feelings of distress and anxiety. To alleviate the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts, the individual engages in repetitive, compulsive behaviors. This cycle repeats throughout the day, keeping the individual captive in the disordered thought/behavior pattern.

There is a connection between OCD and drug abuse. According to a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, it is estimated that 25% of the individuals who struggle with OCD also have a substance use disorder. Of those who have the dual diagnosis, 70% report that OCD presented first. This indicates that the debilitating effects of this mental health disorder are what drives the use of drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication.

The dual diagnosis has a complex profile, with the co-occurring disorders each exacerbating the effects of the other. Treatment for individuals who struggle with both OCD and drug abuse should be obtained from a specialized dual-diagnosis treatment program where both disorders can be addressed simultaneously.

ocd and addiction

About OCD

OCD is a mental health disorder that affects approximately 1.2% of the adult population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. OCD is characterized by repetitive cycles of alternating obsessive thoughts and subsequent compulsive behaviors. Obsessions may revolve around fear, perfectionism, disgust, or something they feel they cannot control. The compulsions that result are efforts made to mitigate those uncomfortable feelings caused by the obsession. This sets in motion a highly disruptive and time-consuming pattern that causes the individual great distress.

Some of the more common types of obsessions revolve around:

  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Fear of some dangerous event, such as setting the house on fire or being burglarized
  • Forbidden sexual thoughts, including perversions, homosexual thoughts, thoughts involving children, or aggressive sexual behaviors
  • Perfectionism, concerning symmetry or exact placement

Some of the more common types of compulsions include:

  • Washing hands, cleaning, preventing physical contact
  • Checking, such as repeatedly checking that the lights are turned off or the oven is off.
  • Repeating routine actions, like going in and out of a door, tapping, touching, blinking, and rereading.
  • Placing items in a specific order or arrangement

OCD can become so invasive that the individual’s life is affected on all fronts. Some who struggle with OCD may isolate themselves in order to avoid triggers that would expose the disorder in public.

It isn’t fully understood what causes OCD, however, research suggests that there is a disconnect in the neural pathways between the frontal lobe and deeper brain structures. In addition, there is some evidence that OCD has a genetic component, as the mental health disorder does seem to run in families.

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What Causes the Link Between OCD and Drug Abuse?

When considering the emotional struggle that individuals with OCD experience daily, it isn’t hard to imagine why they may turn to drug use to help them cope with it. Certain substances may provide some symptom relief, at least initially. As with all dual diagnoses, eventually, the substance that was providing some relief will only end up causing them more suffering if the drug abuse evolves into addiction.

Individuals with OCD may abuse marijuana, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, or alcohol in an attempt to divert the distress caused by the mental health disorder. The earlier that the OCD is diagnosed and treated, the lower the risk of the individual turning to drugs.

Treatment for OCD and Drug Abuse

Dual diagnosis treatment provides a specialized approach to helping individuals overcome a substance use disorder while learning how to manage the OCD symptoms. These types of treatment programs have psychiatric services included in their programming. This provides the needed expertise to help manage unpredictable behaviors or other disruptions that might arise in treatment, as well as address the unique profile of the OCD dual diagnosis.

During the intake process, the individual will be evaluated for both disorders. If it is determined that there is a drug or alcohol addiction present, the individual will need to complete the detox and withdrawal process before beginning treatment.

Once detox has been completed, if applicable, the individual will be ready to begin the treatment program. Treatment for an OCD dual diagnosis may include:

  • Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavior therapy and exposure and response prevention therapy
  • Medication, such as Zoloft, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, or Anafranil
  • Group therapy
  • Addiction counseling, relapse prevention
  • Stress reduction activities

Aftercare Services For a Dual Diagnosis

Once the dual diagnosis rehab program has been completed, the individual will need to access continuing care, or aftercare, services. Medication will most likely be prescribed for long-term symptom management, and outpatient therapy sessions offer individuals ongoing psychological support. Family therapy is important, as the family will provide the primary social support system for the individual in recovery. Additionally, 12-step programs, such as A.A. or N.A. can also be helpful in maintaining long-term sobriety. Aftercare for those with an OCD dual diagnosis should be expected to be ongoing for many years for the best recovery outcome.

Capo By the Sea Orange County Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

Capo By the Sea is a luxury rehab that provides specialized dual diagnosis treatment. The tranquil beach town setting provides the perfect setting for healing, and the high-end accommodations enhance the time spent in treatment. Capo by the Sea approaches every client with compassion and respect, acknowledging that each person has unique recovery needs that are addressed in the individualized treatment plans. These customized plans are what sets Capo By the Sea apart from most rehabs.

The core treatment elements used at Capo By the Sea are a tailored blend of evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, with medication, and holistic practices. Together these interventions offer the most effective recovery outcomes for those struggling with OCD and drug abuse. For more details about the program, please contact Capo By the Sea today at (888) 529-2114.