Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment

Dual diagnosis is a combination of disorders affecting more and more people. While we must treat the symptoms and issues associated with drug and alcohol addiction, we must also focus on treating mental illnesses that may exist simultaneously with these issues.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual Diagnosis - Photo taken over the right hand shoulder of a woman looking down into her lap, holding a glass of red wine in one hand and several white pills in the other hand.

For people struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, substance abuse is often not the only problem affecting them. Many people dealing with addiction are also suffering from a mental health disorder. In fact, research has found that roughly half of all addicts have at least one mental health condition. These mental health conditions can be many, from anxiety or depression to trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. When someone is suffering from both an addiction and a mental health disorder, they are considered to have a dual diagnosis. For them to be able to have a full and lasting recovery from their addiction, they must also have their mental health problems addressed. Dual diagnosis treatment blends the most effective aspects of substance abuse treatment and mental disorder care. This makes it the perfect recovery option for people with a dual diagnosis.

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Understanding a Dual Diagnosis

For many people who have a dual diagnosis, it can be difficult to figure out whether their addiction or mental health issues came first. Some people may have already had a mental health issue, while others may feel like their addiction led to their dual diagnosis. Years of research have not identified one particular reason why people end up with a dual diagnosis. They have, however, found three different factors that they believe can lead to someone needing dual diagnosis treatment. These include:

  • Both substance abuse and mental health issues can be caused by stress, trauma, and even genetics.
  • Certain mental health disorders have been found to make someone more likely to abuse and become addicted to drugs or alcohol. This often happens as the result of people trying to treat their mental health symptoms with substance use. It can also happen because certain mental disorders, like ADHD and schizophrenia, make you more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • In some cases, substance abuse can lead to mental health issues. This happens when drugs change the way your brain works in a way that is long-lasting and requires treatment, such as causing chronic depression or anxiety.

Signs of Alcohol/Drug Addiction and a Mental Health Disorder

It can be difficult for someone to tell if they need a dual diagnosis, especially if they have never had their mental health issues addressed by a professional. To get a dual diagnosis, the patient must be assessed by an addiction specialist and mental health professional. These signs might show that a person needs to be enrolled for a dual diagnosis treatment:

  • Abandoning family or friends.
  • Struggling to keep up with work or school.
  • Sleeping during the day, or staying up during the night.
  • Using drugs or alcohol to deal with negative memories.
  • Using drugs or alcohol to avoid uncomfortable feelings.
  • Using drugs or alcohol even though they make you feel depressed or anxious.
  • Having a close family member that has been diagnosed with a dual disorder.

What Makes Dual Diagnosis Treatment Different?

In contrast to traditional rehab programs, dual diagnosis treatment focuses on both addiction recovery and mental health treatment. Without treatment for your mental health issues, you are far less likely to be able to overcome your addiction. This is because mental health issues have a big effect on a person’s life. It can cause problems in your relationships, your ability to make good decisions, how you behave, your ability to work or attend school, and more. There is no treatment option that can be said to be the best for dual diagnosis. It will depend on the type of mental disorder and addiction a person is dealing with. The most common mental health disorders treated at dual diagnosis rehab programs are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
  • Panic disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Schizophrenia

The reason why it is so important to seek help at a dual diagnosis treatment facility is that even after you stop taking drugs or alcohol, your mental health symptoms will not just go away on their own. The specialized treatment offered at a dual diagnosis facility focuses on treating your mental health issues along with your addiction, helping you to figure out what is causing your mental health symptoms, as well as ways to treat them. This may include the use of medications as well as behavioral therapy. Getting help for both issues makes it much less likely that you will experience a relapse once you have completed your treatment program.

What to Expect During Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The first step of dual diagnosis treatment is undergoing a clinically controlled alcohol or drug detox. This allows you to get all of the drugs or alcohol out of your system as safely as possible. The advantage of going through detox at the facility means that you will have the support of a trained medical staff to treat your withdrawal symptoms and give immediate help in case of an emergency. Next, your mental and physical state will be assessed. This will help the treatment facility work with you to decide what behavioral therapy treatment path is going to be right for your individual needs. Every person’s journey will be different, but can include:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT

MAT uses both medicine and counseling to treat addiction. This approach works great at treating withdrawal symptoms for certain drugs such as opioids, as well as long-term addictions.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT

CBT works to help clients identify the things that trigger their drug use. Once clients can recognize these triggers, they will learn how to avoid them, or how to deal with them in situations where they are unavoidable.

  • Contingency Management, or CM

CM gives clients small rewards, such as cash, vouchers, or small gifts, for positive behaviors. This can include going to your therapy sessions, sticking with your treatment plan, and staying clean after rehab.

Along with behavioral therapy, you will receive treatment for any physical problems that you may be dealing with as a result of your addiction. This can include medications, massage therapy, dental care, fitness training, and more. Taking a whole-health approach to dual diagnosis treatment gets you in the best possible mental and physical state before you complete your treatment program. This not only helps to make you happier and healthier, it puts you in the best possible mindset to continue your recovery journey even after you leave your rehab facility.