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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1988;14(2):211-35.

Substance abuse among general psychiatric patients: place of presentation, diagnosis, and treatment.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York 10016.


This paper reviews the literature on patients presenting for general psychiatric treatment who are also substance abusers. Place of presentation, diagnosis, and treatment are considered. A considerable portion of patients seen in emergency rooms, as much as half in some settings, are substance abusers, and over a third of general psychiatry admissions have been found to have their presenting problems materially influenced or precipitated by substance abuse. Substance abuse is also frequently found among psychiatric inpatients. Diagnostically, the differentiation of general psychiatric and addictive syndromes can be difficult: primary and secondary affective disorder from consequences of long-term substance abuse; and self-medication patterns from primary general psychiatric syndromes. Treatment studies are often focused on concomitant psychotherapeutic management for patient being treated for addiction. Often, emphasis is placed on pharmacotherapy for enhancing outcome in the dually diagnosed. Qualitatively, new options tailored to this population still remain to be studied, however, as do the changes necessary in the treatment system to assure proper long-term management.

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