Dual Diagnosis


Recent research estimates that about half of all those who seek treatment for drug addiction are also living with a Dual Diagnosis or a diagnosis for a psychological, behavioral or social disorder in addition to cocaine addiction, heroin addiction, alcoholism and other addiction to prescription drugs. Though it is a common predicament, few get the kind of treatment that can help them deal with both issues at the same time – Dual Diagnosis rehab. Only a Dual Diagnosis treatment program can provide the medical care and psychological treatment that is in-depth enough to help the patient make real progress on the fronts of both disorders and develop the tools necessary to live a drug-free life. A Dual Diagnosis presents many extra challenges for those undergoing rehab for addiction and the professionals treating them. Co-occurring illnesses also are a huge concern because these individuals are at a much higher risk for suicide.


Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment Works

When both an addiction to alcohol and/or other illicit drugs exists alongside a psychological, social or behavioral disorder, one issue worsens the other. Many patients report that they initially began abusing drugs and alcohol in an attempt to control the paranoia, hallucinations, depression, anxiety and other issues that resulted from their co-occurring disorder. Others say that they’ve attempted drug rehab in the past only to fail when the issues related to their co-occurring disorder proved far too difficult to handle without treatment. Unfortunately, in the past, many providers have been of the mind that it was impossible to treat depression, anxiety, grief, stress and other issues without first addressing an existing drug addiction. Research has shown, however, that that’s not the most effective treatment path when a Dual Diagnosis is an issue. Instead, a Dual Diagnosis rehab that provides you with medical detox, medication stabilization and psychological treatment is the best way to make strides toward creating a life of balance and health. Dual Diagnosis is the best way someone with an addiction and co-occurring mental disorder can meet the challenges of their situation for the following reasons:

  • Rehab Is Most Successful When Both Conditions Are Treated Simultaneously. Mental illness and addiction feed off each other. If one remains untreated, the patient is at a high risk for a relapse.
  • Addiction Can Mask Mental Illness. The symptoms of a mental disorder and the symptoms of substance abuse can look very similar. This can create confusion during the diagnostic process and oftentimes the mental illness is overlooked.
  • There Are Licensed Psychiatrists on Staff. Dual Diagnosis treatment programs provide licensed therapists who are qualified to perform all aspects of the care for a patient with a mental illness, from diagnosis through treatment.
  • There Is a Sufficient Staff-to-Patient Ratio. If a patient has two issues to tackle, they need more support. Therefore, Dual Diagnosis programs have a larger number of staff members in order to provide greater assistance to patients.
  • There Is a Greater Potential for Violence. Individuals with a Dual Diagnosis involving substance abuse have a greater propensity towards violence than addicts without a mental illness. This potential for violence may be against others or themselves through suicide attempts.
  • Self-Medication Can Sabotage Recovery. People with a mental illness have high rates of drug addiction and other substances because they use these drugs in order to self-medicate the uncomfortable emotions they feel. If only the drug addiction were to be treated, as in a standard rehab, then the underlying cause would be left untreated.
  • Dual Diagnosis Is Often Related to History of Trauma. Dual Diagnosis treatment has the professional psychiatric staff available to deal with a patient’s past trauma, which is often the cause of both the addiction and mental illness.

Drug Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Psychological disorders

There are a number of different types of disorders that constitute a Dual Diagnosis when a patient is living with drug addiction or alcoholism. Social disorders, behavioral disorders and psychological disorders that make it difficult to impossible to function in the world without medication fall into this category. Some of the most common psychological disorders that are treated concurrently with drug addiction include:

Behavioral disorders

Behavioral disorders are also an issue that can complicate drug addiction treatment and increase the risk of chronic drug addiction. Some of the most common include:

Social disorders

Social disorders disrupt how patients interact with others and function in the world. Many use drugs and alcohol to supplement this disorder, allowing them to more fully succumb to their disorder. These disorders include:

Additionally, acute but chronic issues related to specific events or circumstances can also create the need for a Dual Diagnosis treatment program when addiction is present. Grief and stress are the two most common issues that fall into this category.

Mental Illness and Substance Abuse+

There are countless combination of mental disorders (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.) and addiction issues (e.g., drugs, food, alcohol, gambling, etc.) that result in a Dual Diagnosis. This is not an unusual phenomenon. In fact, current research estimates that as many as 50 percent of those with a substance abuse problem also struggle with at least one type of mental illness.

Behavioral Problems and Drug Addiction+

Drug addiction treatment combined with mental health counseling for behavioral problems can significantly increase the chances of successful entrance back into the stresses of daily life following rehabilitation treatment. Since both issues seem to have similar characteristics, a drug addiction can exacerbate a mental health disorder, and behavioral problems can lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as drug abuse.

The Statistics

Though many drug and alcohol rehab centers offer Dual Diagnosis treatment, many individuals entering drug or alcohol rehab are surprised to learn the frequency with which Dual Diagnosis cases arise – and the special care they require. Here are a few facts and figures about Dual Diagnosis cases and the drug and alcohol rehabilitation process.

Facts and Statistics+

  • A “team treatment” or “integrated care” approach has been shown to be the most effective for rehabilitation of Dual Diagnosis cases. Mental health professionals and addiction specialists interface as part of the same treatment team for a Dual Diagnosis patient, ensuring communication, insight and acceleration of healing as the patient recovers.
  • Nearly one in three patients diagnosed with a mental health condition experience a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Dual Diagnosis cases, in general, will take longer to resolve during drug or alcohol rehabilitation – even for those treated at an inpatient addiction facility. Depending on the nature of the mental health condition and the severity of addiction, successful treatment can take anywhere from a few months to a year.
  • Those who suffer from alcoholism quite often also are cases of Dual Diagnosis, with roughly 35 percent exhibiting at least a single mental health condition.
  • Suicidal ideation is a liability for Dual Diagnosis cases. In fact, those with a secondary mental health condition in addition to drug or alcohol addiction commit suicide more frequently than those who suffer from one disorder without the presence of the other.
  • Many of the country’s cases of Dual Diagnosis are unfortunately in jail rather than receiving intensive treatment for addiction and mental health conditions. In fact, more than one in five prisoners in the United States meets the criteria for Dual Diagnosis.
  • More than half of drug-addicted individuals – or those who regularly abuse drugs – also suffer from at least a single mental health condition.
  • While cases of Dual Diagnosis can include a host of mental health conditions, the most common mental health disorders among those also diagnosed with drug or alcohol addictions include depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), bipolar disorder, panic anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia and eating disorders.
  • Most addiction recovery centers across the United States do not specialize in Dual Diagnosis cases – in fact, a selective few are fully equipped to treat patients with comorbid mental health conditions. As such, those diagnosed with – or suspecting they may suffer form – Dual Diagnosis should locate a facility with appropriate treatment capacity.
  • Nearly one in eight adults surveyed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) who self-reported lifetime marijuana use were found to have a severe mental illness in the last 12 months.
  • Age of first marijuana seems to correlate with mental illness, as adults who used marijuana prior to the age of 12 had double the incidence of serious mental health conditions than those whose first experimentation with the drug occurred at 18 years old or beyond.
  • Among young male adults 18 to 25, those who experienced severe mental stress within the last 12 months were seven percent more likely to drink heavily, seven percent more likely to binge drink, and 13 percent more likely to use drugs over the last 30 days.
  • Women who had received a Dual Diagnosis of both behavioral problems and drug addiction or alcoholism were more likely to be referred to treatment by an outside source, and less likely to have been referred by the legal system.
  • Women suffering from cases of Dual Diagnosis are less likely than their non-dually diagnosed peers to be employed. In fact, 39 percent of Dual Diagnosis female patients were part of the labor force, as opposed to 48 percent of those admitted to treatment without a secondary mental health condition.
  • Find more statistics on dual diagnosis and substance abuse (Additional Stats).

Find Treatment Today

If you need assistance with any of the mental health issues listed above or if you are living with a drug addiction as well as another co-occurring psychological, behavioral or social disorder, don’t wait to get the help you need. Mental health treatment programs are available to assist you. Contact us today to be matched with some of the top Dual Diagnosis rehab programs in the country.

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