The Harris Project is a 501 c3 charitable organization

Co-Occurring Disorders

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What is COD?

The term co-occurring disorders (COD) refers to a diagnosis of one or more mental health disorders plus substance (drug and/or alcohol) misuse and/or addiction. COD involves two diagnostic areas: mental health and substance misuse and/or addiction (as well as the impact of trauma, traumatic brain injury, etc.). Mental health disorders commonly associated with COD include:

  • mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder
  • anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiance disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Compared to those who have a mental health disorder or substance misuse and/or addiction alone, people with COD often experience more severe and chronic medical, social, and emotional problems. The challenge is to address both diagnostic areas without compromising the best treatment for either one. (Source:

Approximately 10.2 million Americans meet the diagnostic criteria each year. And it is estimated that approximately 70% of those addicted to substances have COD. (Source:

As the mental health and substance misuse and/or addiction pieces impact one another greatly, they should be treated with an integrated, comprehensive plan.  (Source:

Many of those diagnosed with COD who seek treatment are often bounced among different programs because each fails to provide a model delivering integrated,comprehensive treatment. Unfortunately, most rehabilitation programs, while claiming to address COD, focus almost exclusively on the substance piece, and most find abstinence to be nearly impossible to maintain because of the unaddressed mental health disorder(s). On the flip side, addressing the mental health piece while still misusing substances compromises the success of any mental health program entered into. (Source:

A uniquely positioned grassroots organization, the harris project is the only 501(c)(3) organization created to promote, support and advance prevention programming, early intervention, screening, and the transformation of the system of care to one that is “co-occurring” or “complexity” capable to improve the lives of adolescents through young adults presenting with symptoms of and/or diagnosed with COD.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports the following statistics.

  • Every day in the United States, 197 people die as a result of drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments (ED) for the misuse or abuse of drugs.
  • Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2016. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.
  • In 2012, 33,175 (79.9%) of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States were unintentional.
  • In 2011, drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department (ED) visits. Of these, more than 1.4 million ED visits were related to pharmaceuticals. And those numbers continue to rise daily.
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.
  • In 2012, of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 22,114 (53 percent) were related to pharmaceuticals.

And the most up-to-date statistics show that in 2017 over 72,000 Americans died by overdose. OVERDOSE DEATHS ARE THE ONLY CAUSE OF DEATH THAT CONTINUES TO RISE AT THIS ALARMING RATE!

There will be significant decreases in these numbers once COD becomes something that the general population understands. The link between mental health challenges and substance misuse and/or addiction is undeniable, and the need for proactive prevention programming, as well as integrated and comprehensive treatment is critical. Together we will bring COD: out of the shadows and into the light.