What Is A Dual Diagnosis?

Unfortunately, addiction or substance use disorders are very common in our country. Nearly 21 million Americans struggle with this disease every day. Sadly, out of those 21 million people, only around 10% of them will ever receive treatment for their addiction or substance use disorder. For those who are able to receive treatment, they know that it can sometimes be a bumpy road to recovery. But ultimately, they know that recovery is also very rewarding, especially once they are able to get to a point where they can manage their addiction and achieve meaningful sobriety. This can be especially difficult in the case of a dual diagnosis, where an underlying mental health problem is compounding their own personal struggle with addiction.

What is a dual diagnosis, exactly?

For those who are new to recovery, or for those who have never received professional help for their addiction or substance abuse, they may be unaware of these underlying mental health problems that only serve to amplify their issues with their alcohol or drug addiction. This is commonly referred to as a dual-diagnosis. Many who are new to recovery often have this very same question, what exactly is a dual diagnosis? Put simply, a dual diagnosis is when someone has both a substance use disorder and an underlying mental health disorder at the same time.

The combination of a substance use disorder and mental illness can become a vicious cycle. Mental health issues, especially if a person is unaware that they are suffering from one, can often drive people to self-medicate, which leads them to abuse drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the symptoms of their mental health disorder. The same goes for people who abuse drugs and alcohol. Substance use disorders can lead to mental health issues even if they weren’t there before that person began using drugs or alcohol. If someone has been diagnosed as having a dual diagnosis, usually the best course of action is to treat them at the same time, as they often play into each other.

What is treatment for a dual diagnosis like?

If you have recently been told that you have a dual diagnosis, or if you have a loved one or family member who has recently been diagnosed with a mental health issue as well as a substance abuse disorder, then please know that you are not alone. A dual diagnosis is very common. A 2019 study found that among adults 18 and onlder, approximately 9.5 million people who had any mental illness (AMI), also suffered from a substance use disorder (SUD). Other studies show that nearly half of all people with a mental health issue will also have a substance use disorder as well. This is perhaps in part due to the related risk factors of both mental health issues and substance use disorders, such as things like genetics, stress, environment, and current or past trauma.

How can doctors tell if someone has a dual diagnosis?

Keep in mind that the majority of health professionals will only be able to accurately diagnose a mental health disorder once the person is clean and sober with no drugs left in their system. This is because many drugs are known to cause side effects that can manifest as mental health issues. However, there are many different mental health disorders that can lead a person down the slippery slope of addiction--many end up trying to self-medicate, either when they are unaware they have a problem, or if they simply are not getting the proper care. However, here are a few mental health disorders that are very common to those who also suffer from substance use disorders:

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Of course, there are many other mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, that if left untreated can cause someone to begin abusing drugs or alcohol.

As mentioned earlier, treatment planning for someone with a dual diagnosis works best when it is specialized to the individual.  While it may seem impossible, we can assure you that it is not. For the best dual diagnosis treatment possible in the Texas area, More Than Rehab can show you the ropes to a successful sobriety while also being able to manage your mental health problems at the same time. There is hope for recovery, and we understand that we could all use a little help, especially in times like these! Call us today. We are open 24/7.

888-249-2191

Mental Health and Addiction Treatment

Dual diagnosis is the treatment of addiction with another co-occurring disorder.

In the field of addiction treatment, when someone has a substance use disorder, coupled with another form of mental health issue, we call this a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. Sometimes addiction treatment alone is not enough. We have helped many people in the Houston, Texas area by identifying a co-occurring mental health issue that was adding to their substance abuse problem. In a dual diagnosis treatment program, your treatment plan is customized to meet your specific individual needs. A personalized addiction treatment plan is the best chance for a successful recovery in these cases.

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For someone who has silently struggled with a mental health issue for years, often the only solace they find is to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. Many patients say this helps quiet the voice in their head telling them that everything is wrong. People with depression may experience a boost of confidence when they use, even if it is only temporary. For someone dealing with and trying to hide their own troublesome internal thoughts, an addiction can develop quickly. If they receive treatment for their substance use disorder, but not for their mental health issue, they will be more likely to drop out of treatment, or even relapse into abusing drugs and alcohol.

Since mental health issues can lead to someone abusing substances, it is often hard to tell which one caused the other. Withdrawal symptoms can sometimes look like a mental or behavioral disorder to the untrained eye. Feelings of lethargy, depression, hopelessness and sudden weight gain are common signs of clinical depression. These same mental and physical symptoms can come from the early acute withdrawal symptoms from alcoholism. In most cases, it is not entirely clear if the mental health of the patient led them to abuse drugs and alcohol or if the abuse of substances created the mental problems they are experiencing.

Detox from drugs or alcohol is the first step in diagnosing an underlying mental health issue.

Cognitive impairment from long term drug and alcohol abuse can often interfere with the proper diagnosis of a mental illness. Once a patient undergoes a full medical detox, cleansing the chemicals from the body and mind, clinicians can start to assess the patient’s underlying mental health. This is a crucial part of addiction recovery, as many patients might not even realize they have been living with a mental health disorder. Some people have been using drugs or alcohol on a daily basis, filling up most of their daily life with intoxication. This can go on for years and years, without them ever realizing they have an underlying struggle with mental health.

When a patient finally experiences sobriety for the first time in a long while, the emotional stress can be very difficult to overcome. Stress, anxiety, sadness and guilt are all commonly experienced when someone first enters addiction recovery services. This is why it is important for someone who struggles with drugs or alcohol to seek rehab from a professional treatment facility. These facilities should offer detox and recovery services for addiction treatment while a dual diagnosis drug rehab will offer help with emotional recovery, medication management, stress reduction and other crucial mental health services. With the support of the right program it is entirely possible to transform your life and rebuild yourself from the ground up.

How mental health and substance abuse can develop together.

The US Department of Health and Human Services notes that, mental health and substance use disorders may share similar, underlying causes for their development. These include changes in brain chemistry, genetic vulnerabilities and childhood exposure to extreme stress or trauma. These problems are further compounded when the person begins using drugs or alcohol to hide their symptoms. Studies have shown that people who struggle with anxiety or mood disorders are almost twice as likely to struggle with addiction than the average person is.

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The four most common mental health issues where substance abuse is more prevalent are:

These types of disorders, when complicated with drug or alcohol abuse are often very difficult to treat. They may require months or even years for someone to fully recover towards a high-functioning state of well-being.  

How is a dual diagnosis treated?

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Treatment for co-occurring disorders at a drug rehabilitation facility will commonly include a variety of physical, mental and behavioral therapies. These are designed to work together on an individual basis, to help the patient with their mental health and to overcome their addiction. These will typically be conducted through a combination of individual and group therapy sessions.

Your treatment providers will work with you during your stay at rehab to formulate an aftercare plan that will help you stay focused on your recovery after you leave their direct care. Outpatient programs, 12-step support groups and relapse prevention strategies will help you during the crucial, early phase of your recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, consider seeking treatment right away. The pain experienced through a mental illness can have devastating consequences when left untreated. We employ a social model of addiction recovery in the Houston, Texas area. More Than Rehab is available 24/7, so we can get you the help you need, right away. Please call us:

888-249-2191