Module 13: Focus on Co-occurring Problems & Course Conclusions

The Module 13 readings introduce concepts essential for understanding problems that commonly co-occur with substance use, misuse, and use disorders, as well as concluding the course with a summary and final points concerning substance misuse. Sources discussing co-occurring problems typically emphasize mental disorders and sometimes physical health concerns; however, many other types of challenging situations and circumstances may co-occur with substance misuse, as well. The frequently used term dual diagnosis is somewhat limiting as it refers specifically to diagnosable mental conditions and to only a pair of them co-occurring; considerable numbers of individuals experience more than two co-occurring conditions and/or non-diagnosable challenges (Reedy, 2020). Another term, comorbidity, again refers specifically to diagnosable conditions that occur either simultaneously or sequentially (NIDA, 2010). In this module we apply a social work lens in examining a broader, more inclusive host of potentially co-existing or co-occurring problems—including but not limited to diagnosable conditions. Challenging situations and conditions may co-occur in complex clusters, with one co-occurring problem impacting another, and co-occurring problems can impede recovery and treatment efforts, as well. The first chapter examines diagnosable physical and mental/behavioral health issues that commonly co-occur with substance misuse. The second addresses a host of additional (non-diagnosable) co-occurring challenges. The module concludes with a final chapter providing an overview and wrap-up of the entire course. 

Reading Objectives

After engaging with these reading materials and learning resources, you should be able to:

  • Explain the relationships between substance misuse/substance use disorders and several commonly co-occurring physical health, mental/behavioral health, and social circumstance challenges;
  • Identify epidemiological trends in their co-occurrence and how this might impact intervention strategies;
  • Define several key terms related to problems that tend to co-occur with substance use, substance misuse, and substance use disorders;
  • Summarize what was covered in this course and what next steps in further education you might consider.


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SWK 5805: Theories and Biological Basis of Substance Misuse Copyright © by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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