Dual Diagnosis is often a overlooked aspect of substance abuse. It’s not uncommon for people who are struggling with substance abuse to also have mental health issues. In the past year, approximately 17.5 million Americans have had a serious mental health disorder with an estimated 4 million struggling with substance abuse.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, at least 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse, and over one-third of alcohol abusers and one-half of drug abusers struggle with a mental illness.
Dual diagnosis is a serious problem for many, but there are effective ways to treat it. Here are 5 facts about dual diagnosis treatment:
1) What is Dual Diagnosis?
Drug and alcohol addiction is considered a mental illness. Dual diagnosis is a developmental disorder where two or more disorders co-occur at the same time. One person has the symptoms of both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder occurring simultaneously.
The changes in the brain actually take place in the same part of the brain that is affected by mental illness. There is often overlapping in genetic factors, environmental triggers, reward and stress in brain systems and brain development.
2) Causes of Dual Diagnosis
It’s a common misconception that mental illness causes substance abuse or vice versa. However, it is difficult to know which disorder causes or worsens the other because the symptoms often mimic each other.
Addiction and mental illness is affected by biopsychosocial factors. Some studies reveal that genetics can predispose clients to addiction and mental illness. Some mental health disorders are caused by structural deficits (ADHD) or chemical imbalances (Depression) that affect one’s decision-making and mood. Environmental and social relationships also play a key role.
3) Signs of Dual Diagnosis
The symptoms of substance abuse range from mild to severe. Due to tolerance or the need to use more of the drug or alcohol to get a better effect, severity of symptoms can worsen. Most people who abuse drugs or alcohol will try to avoid the withdrawal symptoms by increasing their abuse.
When there is a substance abuse issue and mental health disorder, people exhibit some of the following behaviors:
• A lack of control
• A clear inability to stop using on their own
• Increased cravings and dependence to function
• An inability to function in school, work or social/interpersonal relationships
• Withdrawal from family and friends
• Engaging in risk-taking when high or drunk
The specific symptoms of mental illness widely vary. When there is a present symptom(s) of a mental disorder, one usually experiences an inability to function in social, occupational and recreational activities.
4) Common Co-Occurring Disorders
Some of the most common mental illnesses that co-occur with substance abuse is depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Personality disorders, conduct disorders and schizophrenia are other common disorders.
5) Managing Co-occurring Disorders
The most effective way to treat dual diagnosis is to treat both the substance abuse and the mental health disorder at the same time during inpatient treatment. However, detoxification of drugs and alcohol must occur first before any underlying issues can be addressed.
Dual diagnosis treatment takes an integrative approach. Sometimes it may include medication management, depending on the substances being abused and the co-occurring mental illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been a proven technique to address the challenging thoughts, feelings and behaviors that often occur with dual diagnosis patients and produce change.
Life After Treatment
Balancing one or more mental disorders along with substance abuse can be difficult. However, there is life after treatment. Ongoing counseling helps as well as attending support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Smart Recovery, and other 12-step fellowship recovery groups.
Routinely attending groups helps those in addiction recovery to build friendships and gain the encouragement to stay clean and sober while learning effective ways to manage their mental illness.
If your loved one has been struggling with a substance abuse and mental health disorder, find help today by calling us at 855-545-6777 or chat now. Our admissions counselors are glad to answer any questions you may have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.