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Dual Diagnosis Treatment

When addiction and mental health issues co-occur, research shows that an integrated approach to dual diagnosis treatment is most effective. 

According to NSDUH 2020, 17 million over-18s in the U.S. have a dual diagnosis involving a substance use disorder (SUD) and any mental illness (AMI). This is a sharp increase from 9.7 million in 2019. 

The same data shows that 5.7 million adults have a dual diagnosis involving a substance use disorder (SUD) and a serious mental illness (SMI), up from 3.6 million, per NSDUH 2019.

Table of Contents

What is Dual Diagnosis?

If someone is suffering from a substance use disorder and a mental health condition simultaneously, this constitutes a dual diagnosis.

Dual diagnosis is also commonly known as co-occurring disorder.

 In a more general sense, someone presenting with more than one simultaneous illness is diagnosed with comorbidity.

Article at a Glance:

Definition

With that dual diagnosis definition in place, how about dual diagnosis meaning? 

Dual diagnosis encompasses addiction to a variety of substances, including: 

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Meth
  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • Heroin
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Other prescription medications 

 

Mental health conditions vary substantially, but the most commonly diagnosed in the case of co-occurring disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Schizophrenia

When someone is diagnosed with co-occurring disorder, either the substance use disorder or the mental health condition could develop first. With so many permutations in dual diagnosis and such a wide range of symptoms, no two cases are alike.

If you’re reading this and suffering from both an addiction to drink or drugs while at the same time struggling with mental health issues, here’s the good news…

Treating dual diagnosis is possible, ideally through integrated and personal therapies addressing both issues at the same time.

What It Means to Have a Dual Diagnosis

Many people grappling with mental health and substance issues may have a dual diagnosis without being aware of it. 

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Do you frequently use alcohol or drugs if you feel unhappy?
  2. Have you suffered with ongoing emotional problems without seeking any form of treatment? 

If you answer yes to both questions, you might have an undiagnosed mental health issue that’s triggering you to self-medicate with substances to counter low moods. 

Everyone goes through ups and downs as life ebbs and flows. If you’re finding yourself abnormally low, low to the extent you reach for drink or drugs, it’s perhaps time to look for help. Dual diagnosis is liable to get worse, not better if untreated.

Common Examples of Dual Diagnosis

The most common co-occurring disorders involve the following SMIs: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD

In all cases, it can be challenging to identify whether the mental health problem or the substance use disorder came first. 

When some substances are used on a sustained basis, they can trigger a mental health condition in an otherwise healthy individual. Marijuana, for example, is associated with triggering latent schizophrenia. While laws and attitudes toward marijuana are shifting, the substance can be problematic. 

Getting an accurate diagnosis for co-occurring disorder is essential as individuals with dual diagnosis are frequently quite treatment-resistant.

Assessing a dual diagnosis can be awkward. Someone could have alcohol use disorder and bipolar disorder in remission. This condition could present, possibly accompanied by psychotic symptoms, after the person binges on meth for a whole weekend.

It can take time and patience to accurately establish a dual diagnosis and to formulate the most suitable treatment program.

Substance abuse and mental health disorders are often closely linked without one necessarily causing the other. These are the areas your healthcare provider will probe with you. You’ll also learn how some substances like meth can provoke psychotic reactions, while others like alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Frequently, drugs and alcohol are used to self-medicate troubling and untreated symptoms of mental health disorders. This also holds true for those wishing to regulate their mood or more easily deal with harsh emotions. While often temporarily successful, the result is that symptoms are worsened rather than alleviated over time.

When abused, alcohol and drugs can increase your risk of developing a mental health disorder. The cause of addiction is predicated on many variables from genetics to the environment, so it’s impossible to say that abusing substances directly causes mental health problems. If you’re already at risk, though, abusing drink or drugs could be all it needs to tip you over the edge.

Beyond this, abusing substances can inflame symptoms of an existing mental illness or even trigger new symptoms. Alcohol and drugs also react adversely with many medications from antidepressants to anti-psychotics, making a bad situation even more volatile.

Depression & Addiction

Depression can increase your risk of chronic illness, including substance abuse. Up to one-third of individuals with clinical depression also abuse alcohol or drugs. 

There are many forms of depression based on the cause, duration, and severity of symptoms. The most common form is major depressive disorder 

Unlike sadness or grief triggered by a loss, the symptoms of major depressive disorder occur most days for weeks on end. Left untreated, symptoms can persist for months or years, while disrupting all aspects of daily functioning.

 As with all co-occurring disorders, the best treatment for depression and substance use disorder involves programs integrating recovery services and mental health services at the facility.

Anxiety & Addiction

ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) reports that 20% of adults in the U.S. with anxiety disorder or depression also have co-occurring substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder.

Abusing addictive substances can significantly inflame the symptoms of anxiety. Tolerance builds if you use drugs or alcohol long-term, meaning you require more of the substance to achieve the same effects. This typically leads to increased consumption and the start of a vicious cycle that ends with the development of substance use disorder.

If the addiction is treated in isolation, this often results in relapse if the untreated anxiety symptoms recur. Treating the symptoms of anxiety without addressing the underlying addiction can lead to anxiety resurfacing, exacerbated by unchecked substance abuse.

 Integrated dual diagnosis treatment, by contrast, will help you to unpack the complexities of both conditions head-on, maximizing your chances of sustained sobriety and sound mental health.

PTSD & Addiction

PTSD and addiction are closely intertwined. APA (American Psychological Association) reports that half of those seeking treatment for substance abuse meet the lifetime criteria for PTSD. Studies show that those seeking treatment for PTSD are 14 times more likely to meet the criteria for substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a form of anxiety disorder that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. While originally associated with war veterans experiencing trauma in active duty, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.

Many people with PTSD, especially when undiagnosed, self-medicate the symptoms with alcohol or drugs. While this can sometimes provide fleeting relief, both conditions are likely to worsen.

The following psychotherapeutic interventions can be effective for treating co-occurring PTSD and addiction:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Family therapy

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How to Treat a Dual Diagnosis

There’s no universally effective approach to dual diagnosis treatment. Someone with a severe cocaine addiction and accompanying PTSD will have different needs to an individual with chronic depression and alcohol use disorder.  

While dual diagnosis treatment should be individualized, it will likely include the same core components. You’re likely to start with medication-assisted treatment so you can detox from the substance in question while minimizing the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. This is likely to take place in a residential setting giving you all the help you need around the clock. 

Once you’ve detoxed, you’ll then undergo some form of behavioral therapy, whether in an intensive outpatient or inpatient backdrop. 

Depending on the specifics of your dual diagnosis, therapy could include any of the following: 

  • Family therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy 

Here at California Detox, we can help you with a customized treatment plan using evidence-based therapies to ensure that:

  • You and your loved ones can access information about the effects of drug use and alcohol abuse on both mental and physical health.
  • You can have any mental health problems stabilized, with prescribed medication and/or talk therapy. This could range from anxiety management through to CBT.
  • You can build the skills you need to manage your alcohol or drug use in the long-term.
  • You’ll be encouraged to build different social networks and to focus on different activities and interests once you’ve finished your treatment for dual diagnosis.
  • You can safely detox in a controlled medical setting.
  • You’ll have a chance to address the underlying issues that are triggering drug or alcohol use.
  • You can develop a risk management plan to minimize your chances of relapse.
  •  You’ll have full access to a range of drug services and alcohol services.

Local Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers: California

The co-occurring disorder typically responds most favorably to inpatient treatment, so what can you do if you’re searching for dual diagnosis treatment Los Angeles and beyond? 

The first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. They may refer you to a mental health specialist or suggest engaging with an addiction treatment program. 

You should also ask friends and family for recommendations. With 40 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with substance use disorder in 2020, your social network may provide you with some options for dual diagnosis treatment. 

An online search should also help you to generate a shortlist of suitable California dual diagnosis treatment centers.

California Detox’s Inpatient Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you feel you could have a dual diagnosis, it’s crucial to address this and to seek help from reputable dual diagnosis inpatient treatment centers. 

Getting the right level of care is central to becoming substance-free and staying that way, especially if you’re also battling a co-occurring mental health condition. Our programs will take you from detox to discharge with the clinical and emotional care you need on hand around the clock. 

Dual diagnosis is challenging, but you should be heartened that help is here and that many people out there today are maintaining their sobriety throughout a dual diagnosis. Call California Detox today at 949.567.8790.

FAQs

Dual diagnosis problems can be caused from a number of different problems, but one of the most prevalent is childhood trauma. Things like childhood abuse, emotional neglect, divorce, physical neglect, and more can all lead to mental health and addiction problems later on.

For those dealing with addiction, a dual diagnosis is very common. For instance, someone dealing with an alcohol or opioid addiction will likely struggle with things like anxiety and depression, especially when they are going through early periods of withdrawal.

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