Activity 3: Co-morbidity with psychiatric disorders in etiology of substance use disorders

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In the previous lesson, we identified that the biological genetic component was an important predictor in the development of substance use disorders. In the previous activity, we examined personality traits and while we found some association correlation, we didn’t find a strong predictive effect. However, psychiatric or mental disorders in childhood do have an important predictive effect. Conduct and attention deficit disorders, along with anxiety and depressive disorders, in childhood are correlated with the onset of substance use and substance use disorders.

Understanding concurrent substance use and mental health disorders in adolescence is particularly important given that the typical onset of both occur during the adolescent, or early adult, years. Furthermore, the combination of substance use and mental health problems is associated with increased suicidal behaviour.

In this activity, you are directed to a video. For those who are not familiar with the HBO Addictions literature and film clips, this is a great place for videos and lay discussion on topics relevant to our course (e.g., understanding substance use disorders, adolescents and substance use disorders, treatment, aftercare, and stigma/discrimination). This site has a number of excellent brief film clips that you might find useful for supporting your clients. Note that you have to log onto the US HBO site to access the materials.


  1. Read Chapter 8 of your textbook: “Comorbid Substance Use Disorders and Psychiatric Disorders” by Mueser et al.
  2. Look at the statistics of the concurrency of mental health and substance use on the CAMH website at: sure to look at the stigma considerations of concurrent substance use and mental health disorders identified on this site.
  3. View all Chapters 1, 2, and 3 (22 minutes total) of HBO’s An Interview with Dr. Mark L. Willenbring, M.D. (Director of Treatment and Recovery Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA]) available at:
  4. View Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 (26 minutes total) of HBO’s The Adolescent Addict at:
  5. Considering the readings and other videos in this lesson, what are some of the psychological traits that pre-existed for Dylan and Ted? How did mental health issues co-exist with the substance use disorders for Dylan and Ted?
  6. On the discussion board entitled “Dylan and Ted,” add to the existing discussion about the interrelationship between substance use and mental health as depicted by Dylan and Ted. What are your thoughts about this interrelationship during adolescence? How does this information assist you in working with adolescents? If you are a parent, how does this information affect your observational/interactional skills with your child?