The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment
What is Dual Diagnosis?
Many addicts use substances like drugs and alcohol to deal with the symptoms of other mental illnesses. When an individual faces a diagnosis of a mental disorder, and drugs and alcohol are introduced into the system, the problems can quickly change and become even more serious. As the central nervous system is delicately balanced and any foreign substance can quickly affect it, those with other mental health conditions that abuse drugs and alcohol may deal with a whole new set of issues.
The presence of both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder is called a dual diagnosis. In order to effectively overcome an addiction, both conditions must be treated – the mental health condition along with the addiction. Our experts are committed to providing the best dual diagnosis treatment to give you the help you need to recover from both your mental health condition and addiction.
Personality and Mood Disorders Can Affect Addiction
Common personality and mood disorders are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Manic depression
The above mental health disorders create an imbalance in the brain that can increase the likelihood of drug abuse and addiction. During the intake process, we provide a comprehensive assessment of your medical history and current state to create a personalized, effective treatment plan that addresses any mental health and substance abuse issues.
Chemical Dependency Can Also Affect Your Mental Health
Many researchers are focused on the relationship between mental health and chemical dependencies. Experts believe that close to 60 percent of individuals who deal with a substance abuse problem may have an underlying mental health issue that exacerbates their addiction. For these individuals, dual diagnosis treatment can be effective.
The causes of addiction and certain mental health conditions are now known. It is widely believed that in order to live a successful life, addicts must receive treatment for both. While one condition may not cause the other, they can directly influence each other and your life overall.
What is the Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness?
Research shows that between 25 and 45 percent of people with a mental health disorder also have a substance abuse addiction. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of people receive treatment for both disorders, also known as their “dual diagnosis.”
There are three main pathways that can contribute to the comorbidity of substance use disorders and mental illness:
- Mental illness and addiction have risk factors in common.
- Mental illness may contribute to addiction.
- Addiction can contribute to mental illness.
Both addiction and mental illness share the following risk factors:
- Genetics — It’s estimated that between 40 and 60 percent of a person’s predisposition toward substance use disorders is attributable to genetics. This is also the case with various mental health disorders. There is active research delving into whether genetics also play a role in developing substance abuse issues and mental health issues concurrently.
- Environment — Environmental factors, such as chronic stress, trauma, or drug exposure can induce stable changes in gene expression, which can alter function in neural circuits and impact behavior.
- Brain function— Multiple neurotransmitter systems, such as dopamine and serotonin, have been implicated in both substance use disorders and other mental health disorders.
How Mental Illness Contributes to Drug Use And Addiction
People with mental illness are more likely to abuse substances as a form of self-medication. The drugs may temporarily reduce the symptoms of the individual’s mental illness or side effects of their medication. In the long term, however, substance abuse tends to exacerbate the symptoms of the mental illness. For example, prolonged periods of cocaine use may worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Additionally, a person’s mental illness may enhance the rewarding effects of the substance or reduce the awareness of its negative effects.
How Substance Abuse Can Contribute to the Development of Mental Illness
Substance abuse affects anxiety, mood, impulse-control disorders, or schizophrenia. Drug use may produce changes in a person’s brain structure and function that can create a predisposition to developing mental illness.
How Common is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis, the presence of a substance abuse disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder, is not rare. It is estimated that as many as 45 percent of people with addiction also have a co-occurring mental health disorder.
What are Signs Someone May Have a Dual Diagnosis?
As you would imagine, the signs of a dual diagnosis can vary widely from person to person. These are some symptoms to look for:
- Sudden change in general behavior
- Difficulty managing daily tasks and responsibilities
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Neglecting health and hygiene
- Disillusioned thinking
- Cognitive impairment
- Avoiding social activities or events that the person once enjoyed
- Refusal to seek treatment
- Refusal to follow advised treatment
- Mentions of thoughts of suicide or suicidal behaviors
- Erratic or impulsive behaviors
- Issues managing finances
- Poor performance at school or work
How is Dual Diagnosis Diagnosed?
Mental illness cannot be diagnosed in the same way as physical disease. Instead of relying on lab results from bloodwork, a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, performs a thorough exploratory consultation. To accurately identify whether a client has a dual diagnosis, our experienced team will engage in meaningful conversation about aspects of the client's life. If you are seeking treatment for drug or alcohol dependency, for example, you might be asked about the following:
- A history of mental illness in your family.
- A history of trauma. Keep in mind that trauma doesn't have to be severe to affect your mental state and your nervous system regulation.
- The core reasons for using drugs or alcohol. For example, do you find it difficult to attend social gatherings or family gatherings without self-medicating?
- How you feel when sober. Do you become agitated, angry, anxious, depressed, or otherwise dysregulated?
- Your general feelings about your life. Can you remember a time when you felt happy, calm, and satisfied without the presence of alcohol or drugs?
The questions that are asked during your intake visit provide a great deal of information that can guide your treatment plan. By identifying and addressing an underlying mental health condition, your drug or alcohol rehabilitation program is far more likely to be successful in the long term.
How Can I Encourage a Dual Diagnosis Loved One to Seek Help?
If you have a loved one whom you suspect may be struggling with concurrent mental illness and substance abuse, one of the best things you can do is to educate yourself about their disease. A person affected by mental illness does not have the capacity to "snap out of it." Their condition may be highly complex and may affect how they think, how they take care of themselves, how they show up emotionally, and how they behave. As challenging as it can be, you must understand that these are out of their control. And yours. As far as we've come, there are still barriers to seeking treatment for both substance abuse and for mental illness. There is a stigma in doing so. To help a loved one, addressing this concern may be paramount to their success. A view of their mental illness and substance use as separate from them, rather than something about them that must be fixed, may lessen the stress around seeking appropriate care.
Part of what may make it difficult to seek treatment is a sense of powerlessness. When talking to a loved one about receiving care, it may be beneficial to know the particulars related to a proposed treatment facility. We would be happy to speak with you and answer questions such as how your loved one's care may be handled, how much autonomy and voice they will have in their healing journey, and the therapeutic modalities that are available to them. Throughout the process, it is imperative that you provide a healthy serving of emotional support. Substance abusers often carry extraordinary amounts of shame. Those with mental illness are in crisis, attempting to medicate their way through their days. To push through the shame and stress of their lives, they need consistent, genuine emotional support.
What Happens if Dual Diagnosis is Not Treated?
Studies are very clear about the dangers of not treating dual diagnoses appropriately. Because substance abuse often results from self-medicating to deal with mental illness, the lack of proper care for that condition diminishes the efficacy of drug or alcohol rehabilitation. There is a much higher risk of relapse if mental health is not made a priority, which is why it is vital that a person with a suspected dual diagnosis receive treatment within a supportive, reputable treatment center. If the concurrent conditions are not treated at the same time, there is a greater likelihood of unemployment, violent behavior, homelessness, and self-harm. The right care can make all the difference.
Do All Dual Diagnosis People Present the Same Symptoms?
No. There are several mental health conditions that may occur simultaneously with drug or alcohol abuse. Some of the most common are depression, social or generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, CPTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. Each of these conditions alone usually presents unique signs. However, the use of substances may obscure them to some degree.
Can Psychiatric Medicine Help Someone Who is Dual Diagnosis?
Yes. A thorough consultation and mental health evaluation are vital to the diagnostic process and development of integrative care. Many mental illnesses may benefit from pharmacologic therapy alongside cognitive behavioral therapy. In some instances, the use of psychiatric medication may ease withdrawal symptoms in the early days of rehabilitation. The use of proper medication can also support long-term substance avoidance.
What is Necessary to Prepare for Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Wasatch Crest?
Wasatch Crest treats dual diagnosis individuals whose primary diagnosis is a substance abuse disorder. If a person’s primary diagnosis is a mental health disorder, Wasatch Crest will work to find the client appropriate treatment elsewhere.
We offer residential, inpatient treatment for clients to stabilize. From there, clients can attend our sober living and outpatient programs. During your admissions process, we will discuss the recommended level of care and length on treatment.
Located in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range, we have four distinct seasons and regularly host adventure therapy outside in our alpine environment. Before you arrive, our admissions counselors will go over exactly what you bring to Wasatch Crest. We will help arrange your transportation to our mountainside campus.
Once you arrive, you will be welcomed with open arms by our clinicians, admissions counselors, recovery advocates, and current clients.
Dual Diagnosis vs. Other Substance Abuse Treatments
At Wasatch Crest, we treat the underlying cause of your substance abuse disorder. We’ll dive deep to see what is leading you to use, and work with you to heal past trauma, develop healthy coping skills, and ultimately develop a life of purpose and passion.
You will receive medical and mental health care in our healing mountain valley setting. Through our adventure therapy program, you’ll develop effective coping skills and a zeal for life in recovery. You’ll leave with the tools to overcome addiction, while at the same time managing your mental health disorder with healthy coping skill that don’t involve substance use.
With our compassionate, personalized treatment approach, you’ll feel cared for, understood, and on your way to healing and growth.
Our friendly admissions counselors are always available to discuss treatment options and answer any of your questions. We'll help you find a program that is right for you. Give us a call on our 24/7 phone line at 801-358-6698.