Impact of Physical Health on Treatment for Co-occurring Depression and Substance Dependence.
The poorer health outcomes experienced by people with mental illness have led to new directions in policy for routine physical health screening of service users. By contrast, little attention has been paid to the physical health needs of consumers of alcohol and other drug (AOD) services, despite a similar disparity in physical health outcomes compared with the general population. The majority of people with problematic AOD use have comorbid mental illness, known as a dual diagnosis, likely to exacerbate their vulnerability to poor physical health. With the potential for physical health screening to improve health outcomes for AOD clients, a need exists for systematic identification and management of common health conditions. Within the current health service system, those with a dual diagnosis are more likely to have their physical health surveyed and responded to if they present for treatment in the mental health system. In this study, a physical health screening tool was administered to clients attending a community-based AOD service. The tool was administered by a counsellor during the initial phase of treatment, and referrals to health professionals were made as appropriate. Findings are discussed in terms of prevalence, types of problems identified and subsequent rates of referral. The results corroborate the known link between mental and physical ill health, and contribute to developing evidence that AOD clients present with equally concerning physical ill health to that of mental health clients and should equally be screened for such when presenting for AOD treatment.