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Kristin Cavallari gets candid about her late brother’s substance abuse and bipolar disorder

Death affects everyone, be it a common man or a celebrity. Recently American television personality, actress and fashion designer Kristin Cavallari appeared on Tyler Henry’s show “Hollywood Medium” and shared the painful experience related to the death of her brother Michael Cavallari. According to Kristin, Michael struggled with alcohol and drug abuse and probably was a patient of bipolar disorder.

Michael died due to hypothermia after a car crash in the southern part of Utah in 2015. His car was discovered two weeks later with the engine still running and the air bags deployed. His body was found three miles away near a steep hillside full of boulders. In November 2017, Kristin payed a tribute to her late brother by releasing a black and white picture of the siblings.

Kristin was on Henry’s show to get a closure on her brother’s death. She said that her brother did suffer from bipolar disorder and would often have manic episodes during which he would feel that everything was alright and later he would feel depressed and would just crash. She said the fluctuations were quite common and when alcohol and drugs were added to the mix, everything would exaggerate. “It went on for years. He was dealing with some demons. There’s no doubt about it,” she said.

The 31-year-old actress also said that the loss of her brother was unexpected and since then things had been difficult for her and her family. Putting her doubts to rest, psychic Henry confirmed that both mental health and substance abuse were involved in Michael’s death, though addiction was the prominent cause.

Dual diagnosis patients need specialized care

Michael was a patient of dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. A dual diagnosis patient is one who simultaneously struggles with substance abuse as well as a psychiatric disorder. The success of dual diagnosis rehab is based on proper understanding of present illnesses and how the problem may affect each other. In some cases, substance abuse may mask the presence of an underlying psychiatric illness. For example, when an alcoholic is suffering from clinical depression, it would not be readily apparent because they present many of the same symptoms.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 8.2 million people (3.4 percent of the adult population) in the U.S. suffer from co-occurring mental disorders and substance abuse. Of these, 48.1 percent received treatment for either substance abuse or mental illness in the past year. Only treating substance addiction without attending to the co-occurring mental disorder would increase the probability of a relapse. Therefore, both the conditions need to be treated simultaneously in order to achieve a long-lasing recovery.

Dealing with dual diagnosis

Co-occurring mental illnesses and substance abuse can be complicated and hence, a victim of the problem needs expert guidance and specialized care. Sovereign Health of Texas is the top dual diagnosis treatment center in the country. Our state-of-the-art facilities and expert staff specialize in treating co-occurring substance abuse and mental disorders. We offer evidence-based treatment programs in a safe and supportive environment.

If you or a loved one is suffering from co-occurring substance abuse and a mental illness, Sovereign Health can help. Our dual diagnosis treatment is personalized to suit each patient. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our trained representatives to know more about our well-equipped dual diagnosis treatment centers where patients can confidently regain control of their life.

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The risks and challenges with polysubstance abuse

Polysubstance abuse refers to the consumption of one or more illicit substances over a defined period or simultaneously. It was once a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it was eliminated from the DSM-5 criteria.

Currently, substance use disorder is the proper term for anyone with a substance abuse problem, whether it is with one substance or many. Polysubstance abuse can include the combination of any substance to alter the body and/or brain. Combining alcohol with cigarettes, alcohol with benzodiazepines, or prescription pain medications with heroin are all examples of polysubstance abuse.

Motivations behind polysubstance abuse

One common motivation for using multiple substances in excess is to enhance the effects on the brain and body. For example, many substances act on the same receptors in the brain, producing similar effects and, therefore, are combined into the same substance abuse class. Mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medication) is common because this combination multiplies the effects on the body and brain, resulting in getting more intoxicated faster. Benzodiazepines and alcohol both work on the GABA receptors in the brain and, when both are taken together, these sedative effects are enhanced and the risk of withdrawal increases.

Another motivation for combining substances is to ameliorate the effects of one drug with another. For example, stimulants such as caffeine, cocaine and methamphetamine are used to overcome a low mood, while benzodiazepines are used to help alleviate the withdrawal effects from alcohol. Each substance can have its effect. The tendency is to use uppers when feeling down and downers when feeling up, regardless of the danger.

Who is at risk for polysubstance abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is more common among males, adolescents and those who begin using at an early age. People who abuse multiple substances are at an increased risk for mental illness.

“People with both an alcohol use disorder and a co-morbid drug use disorder are more likely to have less education and a lower income and are less likely to be involved in a stable relationship than people who have an alcohol use disorder and no co-morbid drug use disorder. In addition, co-morbidity is associated with a higher prevalence of personality, mood, and anxiety disorders and is a predictor for suicide attempts,” according to an article.

Treatment for polysubstance abuse

The treatment for polysubstance use is where the lines become blurred. There is limited evidence that shows whether treating all substance abuse simultaneously is better than treating each substance abuse individually.

“It is clear that individuals who use multiple substances are at elevated risk of developing comorbid psychiatric and other health conditions. They also have more pervasive deficits in cognitive functioning that place them at elevated risk of poorer treatment outcomes. Prevention and treatment approaches for polysubstance use are underdeveloped by comparison with treatments for abuse of single substances. Future research will tell what effects removing polysubstance dependence from DSM-5 will have on the identification and treatment of this group of substance users,” according to Medscape.

Education, raising awareness, letting go of the stigma, and treatment are the most important steps to decrease the rate of polysubstance use. Most people don’t realize that they are using two “drugs” when they combine caffeine and alcohol; hence, it is important to educate and raise awareness on this important topic.