Print Header

Mental Health and Problematic Substance Use

Collaboration for Addiction and Mental Health Care: Best Advice (Report in Short)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Concurrent disorders is the term applied to mental health and substance use problems that occur together. The links between mental health and substance use problems are complex. These problems can develop independently as a result of common risk factors or one can lead to the other as a result of self-medication or prolonged distress.

Concurrent disorders are a significant health issue in Canada. People with concurrent disorders present some of the most complex and difficult-to-treat cases and require a lot of healthcare support.

Traditionally, Canada’s mental health and addiction treatment systems have been largely independent and compartmentalized. People are often diagnosed with one disorder but not the other, resulting in a failure to treat both problems together. CCSA is working with mental health partners to address this separation and support more collaborative practice where it is needed. ​

Addressing mental health and problematic substance use is a priority for CCSA

  • Concurrent disorders were identified in 2008 as a new focus area under the National Framework for Action to Reduce the Harms Associated with Alcohol and Other Drugs and Substances in Canada.

  • The mental health and addiction treatment sectors are starting to re-organize themselves to work more closely together. This reorganization is supported by evidence-based systems planning, as studied in an in-depth series produced by CCSA.


Treating Concurrent Disorders: The Importance of Collaboration

The correlation between mental health and addiction is clear, as is the need for Canada to address this complex and growing issue. Psychologist and social worker, Todd Leader, offers his insights on how collaboration and inter-dependence between mental health and addiction services can improve the quality and accessibility of treatment for millions of Canadians with concurrent disorders.


View the Treating Concurrent Disorders video


Enhancing collaboration among specialists treating mental health and problematic substance use

  • CCSA recommends a collaborative​ approach for addressing mental health and problematic substance use needs. This approach includes common education and training for caregivers, collaborative research projects and, in some instances, system-level service integration.

  • CCSA, in partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Executive Council on Addictions, released a report, Collaboration for Addiction and Mental Health Care: Best Advice.

  • CCSA also produced a practical guide to fostering collaboration, as part of its Systems Approach Workbook.

  • CCSA has developed the Standards for Preventing Problematic Substance Use to help deter substance use. Increasing evidence suggests that concurrent disorders escalate faster when they start during adolescence, which makes early detection and treatment even more important.

  • CCSA has developed several evidence-based reports that take an in-depth look at the causes and interplay between concurrent disorders, and ways to enhance the continuum of care offered to patients.

View the Substance Abuse in Canada series.