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Dual Diagnosis
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An individual who is denoted as dual diagnosis has both a substance abuse and an emotional/psychiatric problem. Professionals believe that in order to recover from either issue, the individual must receive treatment for both problems.

Determining whether someone is classified as dual diagnosis can be difficult as drug abuse often induces or mimics psychiatric symptoms. Medical professionals claim that the differentiation between substance induced and pre-existing mental illness is paramount for recovery.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Substance abuse and mental disorders frequently occur together. According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, roughly 50% of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse; 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness; and of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs.

Finding the right treatment center can be difficult since most substance abuse facilities do not accept people with serious psychiatric conditions and many psychiatric centers do not have expertise with substance abuse. However, there are numerous successful treatment centers for patients with coexisting disorders.

Integrated dual diagnosis treatment has been shown to work effectively for individuals suffering from multiple disorders. Successful treatment is generally tailored to treat both disorders simultaneous and should be a collaborative decision-making process between the treatment team and patient.

Finding Appropriate Treatment

When searching for the right treatment program, four main criteria impact the quality of treatment.

  1. The treatment center is appropriately licensed and accredited
  2. Treatment methods are backed by research
  3. Aftercare programs are available to prevent relapse
  4. The program has experience treating the particular mental health issues

Approaches of Treatment Include:

  • Treatment addresses both the substance abuse problem and your mental health problem.
  • You share in the decision-making process and are actively involved in setting goals and developing strategies for change.
  • Treatment includes basic education about your disorder and related problems.
  • You are taught healthy coping skills and strategies to minimize substance abuse, cope with upset, and strengthen your relationships.

Effective treatment will help reduce the risk for many additional problems, such as increased symptoms of mental illness, as well as end dependency on drugs and alcohol, and help piece together an organized life. An integrated approach to dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders will help address and resolve the underlying causes of substance abuse while treating depression, Bipolar Disorder, anxiety, trauma or eating disorder, in hopes to sustain a long-term recovery.

Treatment Methods

Upon admission, a thorough psychosocial assessment will be given to design an individualized treatment plan addressing specific dual diagnosis symptoms.

Common Treatment Methods Include:

  • Individual psychotherapy session with therapists trained in dual diagnosis treatment
  • Daily 12-step meetings
  • Relapse prevention to help identify triggers and learn techniques for preventing substance abuse relapse
  • Psycho-education on the relationship between psychiatric disorders and substance abuse
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help change negative thoughts and beliefs regarding addiction and mental health issues
  • Trauma, grief and loss group to help manage symptoms of abuse and PTSD and prevent drug or alcohol relapse
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to help regain emotional stability and improve impulse control
  • Eating disorder group, as needed, to help gain control over eating disorder behaviors




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