Concurrent Disorder

Concurrent disorders is a term used to refer to co-occurring addiction and mental health problems. It covers a wide array of combinations of problems, such as anxiety disorder and an alcohol problem, schizophrenia and cannabis dependence, borderline personality disorder and heroin dependence and bipolar disorder and problem gambling.

Concurrent disorders are also sometimes called:
· dual disorders
· dual diagnosis (however, in Ontario, this term is used when a person has an intellectual disability and a mental health problem.)
· co-occurring substance use and mental health problems

These problems can co-occur in a variety of ways. They may be active at the same time or at different times, in the present or in the past, and their symptoms may vary in intensity and form over time.

People often ask, “Which came first: the mental health problem or the substance use problem?” This is a hard question to answer. Often it is more useful to think of them as independent problems that interact with each other.

Concurrent Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders: An Information Guide © 2004, 2010 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health



  • Early intervention is key to managing the disorder and preventing further disability.
  • Get help from a qualified health practitioner, including a professional diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis will help to prevent any incorrect “labeling” of your child by others.
  • Obtain a second opinion if possible.
  • Find a support group for both you and your child, and exchange strategies.
  • Learn all you can about the disorder and educate your family and your child about the disorder.
  • Don’t compare your child to siblings or other children. Treat your child as a unique individual.
  • Re-evaluate and modify strategies as necessary. Work closely with your child’s teacher, doctor, and school team.

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