What You Need To Know About Dual Diagnosis

As the medical and scientific communities have grown in their understanding of drug addiction and alcoholism, the complexity of these illnesses has been further revealed. They are not necessarily caused by one singular thing and the reasons for their onset can be numerous and varied. For instance, someone may start using out of sheer curiosity and boredom, which in time can lead to chemical dependency and addiction, or they may start using because there is an underlying symptom that they are attempting to address on their own.

Attempting to alleviate underlying symptoms is known as self-medicating and it is often times a prelude to the development of alcohol and drug addiction. The reason being is that often times people begin to use substances because they are suffering from some undiagnosed mental health issue and they have discovered that abusing certain substances helps them with their symptoms. Many times these people are unaware of their underlying condition, whether that is because of a fear of the stigma attached to mental illness and so they never go to a psychiatrist, or because they have lived with the symptoms of it for so long that they believe feeling that way is normal. Regardless of why the symptoms have gone undiagnosed, the fact remains that drugs and alcohol have become their medication and without addressing the underlying conditions, sobriety will often remain elusive.

It is important to note though that not everyone who self-medicates is an addict or alcoholic. There are some people who just suffer from a mental illness and then are chemically dependent. Chemical dependency and addiction are not synonymous, but those who suffer from mental illness and suffer from addiction are said to have a dual diagnosis and because of this they must seek the proper treatment.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is the term used when a person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar and a problem with drugs and alcohol. This means that a person diagnosed as such suffers two separate illnesses. These illnesses must be treated separately for a person to be able to overcome them. It is not enough for someone to just be treated for addiction if they also suffer from a mood disorder and vice versa. While a patient with this diagnosis may find that their life improves dramatically by just getting sober, in time, the underlying condition and its symptoms may prove overwhelming and could possibly lead to a relapse.

Relapse isn’t the only risk involved with not getting the proper treatment, but the overall quality of life of a person may suffer as well. They may find that they are sober now but unable to enjoy their newfound sobriety. They may still struggle dramatically with life and all of this is unnecessary suffering that could have been avoided with the proper treatment.

man suffering from a mental illness

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

This form of treatment is still relatively new to the field of addiction treatment therapy. Up until the early 90s people who had a mental health condition were treated separately from those who had substance abuse problems. The overlap between the two was almost non-existent and so people who suffered from more than just addiction often times did not receive the proper diagnoses when it came to their mental illnesses.

Luckily this has changed in the past 20 years and more and more drug treatment centers are specialized in handling cases like this. They are aware that addiction may be only a part of the problem and so they are equipped to help their patients navigate their early sobriety and help them receive the required help for their underlying conditions.

Many programs that treat both substance abuse and mental illness are similar to substance abuse only programs. Where they differ is that they focus on diagnosis and then the required psychotherapy and medication that is needed to address the underlying conditions that may have been contributing to the addiction in the first place.

What you can expect out of a program like this is:

  • Detox

Detoxification is usually the first step in any treatment program. This is fairly straightforward because it is impossible to start sobriety while drugs or alcohol are still in the system and the same goes for getting a proper mental health diagnosis. A person must be free of alcohol and drugs for an accurate diagnosis to be obtained and so they must detox those substances out of their body first.

  • Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab  is the bulk of the treatment process. It is the place where a person is introduced to sobriety and a place where they can safely experience all of the emotions that come with getting sober. If the program is one where both substance abuse and mental health concerns are addressed then it is during this phase that a person will receive a diagnosis. After a diagnosis has been made if medication is required it will be administered and often times a patient will begin to receive additional and necessary psychotherapy. The psychotherapy engaged in programs like this is usually more intensive than in basic substance abuse programs.

  • Outpatient / Aftercare

Many facilities offer a level of care after discharge from inpatient. This level of care usually means that the person no longer lives on site but comes to the facility a couple of times a week for a few hours in order to receive follow up care and participate in groups. This is a good way to transition back into society and still have the necessary structure for success.

Getting Help For Substance Abuse And Underlying Conditions 

If you think you may have a problem with drugs and alcohol and think you may have an underlying condition driving these issues then call the professionals at Dream Center For Recovery today at 1-877-978-3148. With all that we now know about substance abuse and mental health issues, there is no reason to continue to suffer in silence. We are here to help you create a new life, one free from the pain you’ve experienced in the past.