Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe individuals who are struggling with substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time..
Over half of those who are diagnosed with a mental illness will have a substance use disorder at some time in their lives, and the reverse is also true. Those who struggle with substance abuse are much more likely to deal with mental health issues.
When a mental illness and addiction coexist, they tend to make each other worse. Those who struggle with both can easily get caught up in a cycle of self-medication, where they use drugs to treat their mental illness. Unfortunately, using drugs always makes mental health problems worse, never better.
Treatment is more complicated with dual-diagnosis individuals because:
- They often have overlapping symptoms. For example, using heroin can make depression symptoms worse.
- Mental illness can delay the person’s ability to begin the addiction recovery process.
- The person may be using the drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the mental illness, so symptoms grow stronger when they eliminate the drugs from their system
Does dual diagnosis only apply to mental illness?
Yes, the term “dual diagnosis” is exclusive to co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health diagnoses.
While it’s incredibly common for a person to have more than one mental health diagnosis (like a mood disorder and an anxiety disorder), or to have a physical health issue and a mental illness, dual diagnosis is reserved for treatment situations where the patient is dealing with the unique issue of recovery from a substance use disorder while dealing with a mental illness.
What is the difference between comorbidity and dual diagnosis?
Comorbidity means that a patient is dealing with more than one type of health problem. This can be more than one physical disorder, more than one mental health disorder, or any combination of the two.
Examples of comorbidities include:
- Asthma and COPD
- Major depression and social anxiety disorder
- Bipolar disorder and leukemia
Dual diagnosis is a type of comorbidity, but the term is reserved for situations where the person is dealing specifically with a substance use disorder and a mental illness.
Other comorbidities should be taken into account when treating someone with dual diagnosis.
Someone may have chosen to use marijuana to control their chronic pain, and their chronic pain and the marijuana may be contributing to their depression. In this case, treatment professionals would help the individual find new methods for controlling chronic pain so that the patient can move forward in their recovery.
What is dual diagnosis treatment?
Dual-diagnosis treatment is when both substance abuse disorder and mental illness are treated at the same time.
Dual-diagnosis treatment programs must have psychiatric professionals on staff and a strong focus on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. While many treatment options offer counseling and support groups, a dual diagnosis program is versed in how substance use and mental illness work together, so they can equip the patient with coping skills, psychiatric support or medication.
Some mental illnesses make each stage of recovery take significantly longer to reach with the possibility of relapse being significantly higher.
How do you treat dual diagnosis patients?
Dual diagnosis programs treat both disorders at the same time. This is done through an individualized treatment program where there’s a strong interaction between psychiatry, psychology, and addiction treatment.
- Inpatient Addiction & Mental Health Treatment
- Intensive Outpatient/Outpatient
Research is pointing toward how important continuity of care is in these situations since forming relationships is difficult, keeping relationships with treatment providers is especially important.
What is a dual diagnosis rehab?
A dual diagnosis rehab program seeks to create an environment where the patient can work on both their mental health and their substance use disorder at the same time. As the individual makes progress with
A dual diagnosis rehab program combines psychological and substance use professionals who understand the unique dynamics of dual diagnosis with psychiatrists and addiction medicine professionals who can help support the recovery process using prescription medications that can be monitored and controlled, unlike many substances that are used in self-medication.
JourneyPure’s inpatient rehabs in Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida are staffed and qualified to treat both addiction and mental health disorders as a dual-diagnosis program.
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Chilton, J., Crone, D., & Tyson, P. (2020). ‘The group was the only therapy which supported my needs, because it helped me feel normal and I was able to speak out with a voice’: A qualitative study of an integrated group treatment for dual diagnosis service users within a community mental health setting. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 29(3), 406-413.
NIDA. 2021, April 13. Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness on 2021, November 17
NIDA. 2021, April 13. Part 2: Co-occurring Substance Use Disorder and Physical Comorbidities. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-2-co-occurring-substance-use-disorder-physical-comorbidities on 2021, November 17
(2020, May). Substance Use Disorders. NAMI; National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Substance-Use-Disorders
(2020). Substance Use Disorder Treatment for People With Co-Occurring Disorders. SAMHSA. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/SAMHSA_Digital_Download/PEP20-02-01-004_Final_508.pdf
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