Treat the person not the illness: NDARC launches mental health and substance use guidelines


Co-occurring substance use and mental health issues are common. More than 1 in 3 people who use substances also have at least one mental health condition and rates are even higher among people being treated for substance use.

People with both substance and mental health conditions often have a variety of other medical, family and social issues. Together these factors can complicate a person's treatment and recovery.

Because of this it's critical that health workers adopt an approach to the management and treatment of mental health and substance use conditions that is based on treating the person, not the illness.

Managing substance use and mental health conditions

The comorbidity guidelines website has been developed to help alcohol and other drug workers identify, manage and treat co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions.

The website provides evidence-based information, training and resources. This will help health workers become knowledgeable about the symptoms of common mental health conditions and how to manage them.

Alcohol and other drug workers can use the guidelines together with existing guidelines. The guidelines are based on the best available evidence and utilise the experience and knowledge of consumers, carers, clinicians, academics, researchers and policy makers.


With funding from the Australian Government the website and online training program was developed by Dr Christina Marel, Associate Professor Katherine Mills, Mr Jack Wilson and Professor Maree Teesson of the Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS), at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

While the website was developed primarily for alcohol and other drug workers, the content may also be useful for other healthcare providers, as well as those studying mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and public health.

Mental health conditions are not a barrier to treating people with substance use issues. Research has shown that people with these conditions can benefit from usual substance use treatment just as much as those without these conditions.

To learn more visit

For information about alcohol and other drugs check out the A-Z of Drugs.

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