Treatment Programs


Dual-Diagnosis (Co-occuring Disorders) Addiction Treatment

It’s not easy dealing with addiction of any kind – alcoholism, substance abuse, etc. But if you also have a behavioral or mental health problem such as anxiety or depression, it can be overwhelming for both the person and his/her loved ones. Struggling with both conditions at the same time is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 45% of people with addiction also suffer from a mental health problem. While co-occurring disorders can seem very challenging, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t treatable. It’s important to get the help of a professional who will be able to develop a treatment plan that can address both of your disorders.

Common Mental Health Issues Linked with Addiction

There are a number of behavioral and mental health disorders that are commonly seen among people with addiction. While these problems are linked, it cannot be clearly stated which came first – the substance abuse or the mental health disorder. Researchers believe that there are three possible reasons why dual diagnosis occurs:

  • Mental health disorders can lead to drug or alcohol abuse. People suffering from a mental health disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol to help alleviate their symptoms, making them feel better albeit temporarily. In addition, changes in the brain due to the disorder may make a person more likely to become addicted.
  • Substance abuse and addiction can lead to the development of a mental health disorder. Using drugs or alcohol can have an impact on your brain chemistry, making it more likely for a person to develop a mental illness.
  • Mental disorders and substance abuse have common risk factors that contribute to their development such as stress, trauma, and genetics.

This is why it’s critical that any treatment plan for addiction needs to consider any symptoms of a behavioral or mental health disorder. Some of the most common disorders that have been linked to substance abuse include the following:

In the US, around 1 in 10 people have depression. Many people suffering from this disorder use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate which can make the problem worse.

18% of the adult population of the US have been diagnosed with GAD. People with GAD may abuse substances in order to manage their symptoms.

Around 50% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also have substance abuse problems. Like with the previous two mentioned, these people may use drugs or alcohol to get temporary relief from their manic episodes.

According to studies, this disorder often occurs with addiction. More than two-thirds have abused drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives.

People suffering from this disorder often use drugs to suppress their appetite.

People with OCD tend to also suffer from anxiety or depression which can cause them to turn to substance abuse.

This is a mental health disorder in which a person experiences hallucinations, delusions, and distorted thinking. Almost half of people diagnosed with this disorder abuse alcohol and/or drugs. Some researchers believe that a person with schizophrenia may use substances to get relief from some of the unpleasant symptoms or side effects of their medication.

People with PTSD have less endorphins produced in their brain. This increases their risk towards substance abuse; taking drugs or alcohol can make them feel happy. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs states that almost 75% of soldiers and veterans who went through a traumatic or violent experience during combat have reported alcohol abuse.

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Recognizing Dual Diagnosis

It can be difficult to determine whether a person is suffering from a co-occurring disorder because the signs and symptoms vary for each individual. It is because these will depend on the type of substance being abused as well as the mental health problem and its severity. That being said, below are some symptoms of dual diagnosis that are generally seen by medical professionals:

  • sudden change in general behavior
  • avoiding social events and activities that he/she previously enjoyed
  • neglecting health and hygiene
  • cognitive impairments
  • disillusioned thinking
  • difficulty performing daily tasks and responsibilities
  • suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • trouble managing finances
  • poor performance at work or school
  • refusal to seek or comply with treatment
  • impulsive or erratic behavior

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

The treatment plan for someone with dual diagnosis needs to address all aspects of both disorders for it to be effective. Professionals recommend patients to enter an inpatient rehab center due to its structured and safe environment. He or she will receive a high level of attention and care from mental health professionals as well as addiction specialists.

While the treatment will depend on the person’s specific issues, the plan may include detoxification, management of withdrawal symptoms, medication, individual and/or group counseling, behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes, and support groups that can provide emotional and social support.

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Recovering from an addiction isn’t easy, but it can be done. There are plenty of treatments available that have helped people stop abusing drugs and start living productive lives again.