Substance Use Disorder & Personality Disorders

Substance use disorder (SUD) and personality disorders (PD) are two distinct mental health conditions that often co-occur, making treatment and recovery more complex. Below we will explore the relationship between these often debilitating mental disorders and why they often occur together.

What is Substance Use Disorder?

As the name suggests, substance use disorder is a chronic mental illness characterized by a pattern of compulsive use of substances, such as drugs or alcohol, despite the negative consequences it inflicts on an individual’s life.

SUD can lead to physical, psychological, and social problems, including physical and mental health issues, financial struggles, and strained relationships.

What is a Personality Disorder?

A personality disorder is a long-standing pattern of maladaptive thinking, behavior, and perception of the world around you that deviate significantly from social and cultural norms.

These disorders typically emerge during adolescence or early adulthood and persist throughout an individual’s life. Examples of common personality disorders include antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder, to name a few.

The Link Between Substance Use Disorder and Personality Disorders

Studies have shown a high prevalence of co-occurring substance use disorders and personality disorders. The presence of a personality disorder can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder and vice versa. Some possible explanations for this co-occurrence include:


Individuals with PDs may use substances to self-medicate and cope with the emotional pain or instability caused by their personality disorder. This self-medication can lead to the development of a substance use disorder over time.

Shared Risk Factors

Both SUD and PD share common risk factors, such as genetic predisposition, early childhood trauma, and environmental factors. These shared risk factors can make an individual more susceptible to developing both conditions.

Impaired Judgment and Impulsivity

Certain personality disorders, for instance, borderline and antisocial personality disorders, are characterized by impulsivity and poor judgment. These traits can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, including substance use.

Challenges in Diagnosis and Treatment

The co-occurrence of substance use disorder and personality disorders can create challenges in both diagnosis and treatment. For example:

  • The symptoms of one disorder may mask or mimic the symptoms of the other, making it difficult to accurately identify both conditions.
  • The presence of both disorders can increase the severity and complexity of the symptoms, making treatment more challenging.
  • Individuals with co-occurring disorders may be more resistant to treatment or experience a higher rate of relapse.

This comorbidity has been associated with a significant reduction in quality of life, poor treatment outcomes, and an increased risk of relapse.

Treating Co-Occurring SUD and Personality Disorder

Given the complex relationship between substance use disorder and personality disorders, a comprehensive integrated treatment approach is necessary for effective treatment.

This often means utilizing a combination of psychological treatments and medication with lifestyle changes, such as healthy diet and exercise, and stress management techniques. Some people may lose benefit from holistic therapy and evidence-based treatments like ketamine infusion therapy.

Ultimately, an effective treatment program will focus on both disorders simultaneously to ensure the best possible treatment outcome.

Ketamine Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Among the various treatment options, ketamine therapy is emerging as a promising approach for individuals dealing with co-occurring substance use and personality disorders. Ketamine, initially known for its use as an anesthetic, has been found to have rapid-acting antidepressant effects and can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with substance use.

Ketamine works by targeting the glutamate system in the brain, which is involved in learning and memory. It helps in the growth of new connections between nerve cells in the brain, a process known as neuroplasticity. This process may help alleviate symptoms of both personality disorders and substance use disorders.

Moreover, ketamine is administered under medical supervision and in controlled doses, reducing the risk of misuse. It should be noted that ketamine therapy is not a standalone treatment but is most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Final Thoughts

The intersection of substance use disorder and personality disorders can indeed be complex and challenging to navigate. However, understanding the relationship between these two conditions and exploring comprehensive, integrated treatment options can make a significant difference.

At Cleveland Medical Institute, our team of healthcare professionals is dedicated to providing you with the most effective treatment strategies, including innovative therapies like ketamine infusion. Together, we can work towards managing your symptoms, reducing substance dependence, and improving your overall quality of life.

Remember, reaching out for help is the first step towards recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with co-occurring substance use and personality disorders, don’t hesitate to contact us at Cleveland Medical Institute. We’re here to help you regain control and embark on your journey towards a healthier future.

If you are interested in learning more about ketamine for substance use disorder treatment & personality disorder treatment in Willoughby, OH, contact Cleveland Medical Institute and request your consultation today.