What Is Dual Diagnosis in Addiction Treatment 

What Is Dual Diagnosis in Addiction Treatment 
January 23 09:50 2018 Print This Article

Dual diagnosis patients are those who are suffering from a mental illness while also struggling with addiction. There is a very significant link between mental illness and addiction that has been identified by the medical profession and in recent years, more effective treatment approaches have been developed for better results in recovery.

Up until around 1984, it was a widely held belief that people suffering from mental illness who were also abusing substances should be treated for addiction as a matter of priority over any mental health issue. However, it was later discovered that the two conditions almost always have a direct correlation with each other, which means that in many senses they combine to perpetuate the addictive behavior.

Dual diagnosis treatment centers spend a considerable amount of time evaluating and assessing each patient on intake in order to establish an accurate diagnosis in cases where there are symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions.

The Undeniable Link between Mental Health and Addiction

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 2015, just over 8 million adults are suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse disorder or addiction, with around 2.3 million showing extreme or severe symptoms of addiction and mental illness.

Around 55% of people in America with co-occurring conditions seek specialist treatment at a dual diagnosis treatment center or receive mental health care every year.

When someone is a dual diagnosis patient, they usually display two different sets of symptoms although some may overlap. This exacerbates and complicates their issues because the co-occurring disorders have an effect on each other through interaction which can serve to perpetuate the need to self-medicate. If a mental health condition goes untreated, it invariably worsens over time and the same is true of addiction, which is why treatment of both at the same time is the most effective treatment plan.

Which Comes First: Addiction or Mental Illness?

Identifying which condition pre-existed the other is essential before it is possible to accurately diagnose a patient and develop a personalized treatment plan for them. Although addiction is common in people with mental illness, substance abuse can itself cause the symptoms of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, which adds to the complexity of dual diagnosis cases.

Sometimes people can start using drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate the very distressing symptoms of mental illness. Over time, a natural tolerance to drugs or drink is developed and so people start to take higher doses to get the desired effects. Before long and unless this pattern of behavior is adjusted, someone can very quickly go on to develop dependency and ultimately, full-blown addiction.

In other cases, particularly if someone has used drugs and alcohol for a prolonged period of time, the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression or panic disorder can start to emerge as a consequence of the interference in the brain’s function from addictive behavior.

How Dual Diagnosis Is Treated

Alcohol and drug abuse increase the underlying risk of mental health issues and on the other hand, drugs and alcohol can make symptoms of mental illness much worse. Because the relationship between co-occurring conditions is so powerful, it is necessary to address each individually but at the same time when it comes to treatment.

By effectively treating the symptoms of both mental illness and addiction once detox has been completed, the objective of returning to daily life in recovery is expedited. The complicated interplay of genetics, environment and other outside factors and variables need to be unraveled before it is possible to piece someone together again to prepare them for life in sobriety.

It’s always important to remember that treatment is available no matter how bleak the situation seems. For many addicts, the often misplaced fears they have about entering a dual diagnosis program can be sufficient enough to prevent them from doing so. However, the reality is that there is very much life after addiction and the path to sobriety although a little rocky from time to time, is enormously fulfilling, enriching and rewarding, making it worth every second of effort in achieving.

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Clare Louise
Clare Louise

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