Dual diagnosis is a common and serious issue facing many people in substance abuse treatment. Anyone struggling with a dual diagnosis, drug addiction and mental illness acting in tandem, should know how to approach the situation. It is virtually impossible to successfully treat either issue without addressing them both simultaneously through a holistic, individualized treatment plan.
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
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Many individuals who develop substance abuse disorders eventually experience symptoms of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Conversely, people who experience mental health disorders or develop them following traumatic experiences generally face a higher risk of developing substance abuse disorders.
Dual diagnosis refers to an individual entering rehab for a substance abuse disorder while also struggling with a mental health disorder. Regardless of which issue manifested first or how the two issues developed, the individual must receive treatment for both issues at the same time.
Risk Factors of Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis treatment requires careful analysis of a patient’s mental health issues and patterns of substance abuse. These cases often arise due to a patient using illicit drugs to cope with his or her mental health issue.
While substance abuse may appear to provide immediate relief from a variety of symptoms, the reality is that substance abuse prevents the individual from approaching his or her condition in a rational, constructive way. Essentially, a mental health condition can prolong a substance abuse issue and also interfere with the individual’s ability to overcome his or her substance abuse.
Substance abuse also tends to cause stronger and more persistent negative symptoms from mental health disorders. For example, a person who treats his or her depression with alcohol eventually learns that although alcohol may seem to provide short-term relief, those symptoms return with greater intensity after drinking. Moreover, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal after sobering up are more unbearable than usual, due to his or her co-occurring mental health symptoms.
Ultimately, having any type of co-occurring mental health disorder with a substance abuse problem is incredibly dangerous. The symbiotic relationship that forms between illicit drug or alcohol use and a mental health disorder creates a dangerous cycle that typically progresses much faster than a typical substance abuse disorder without a co-occurring mental health condition.
Unique Issues with Dual Diagnosis Cases
Self-medication is one of the most difficult aspects of any dual diagnosis case. An individual who experiences negative symptoms from mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is likely to self-medicate. Illicit drugs that cause pleasant physical sensations like alcohol and heroin are especially dangerous as the individual will likely equate inebriation with relief from his or her mental health disorder.
Substance abuse and a mental health condition can create a dangerous cycle of dependency. To compound matters, both aspects of a dual diagnosis inherently work against the individual when it comes to withdrawal and substance dependency.
Withdrawal symptoms of substance abuse are more intense, and periods of withdrawal are very likely to exacerbate an individual’s discomfort from withdrawal. This speeds the addiction cycle to a staggering degree. As the individual automatically turns to substance abuse to find relief from mental health issues, the withdrawal period intensifies once the drugs wear off.
Developing a Dual Diagnosis Care Plan
Roughly one in four adults with mental health disorders also struggle with substance abuse. To help meet the growing demand, dual diagnosis treatment centers have refined their treatment techniques in recent years. The shift in treatment was needed as the former sequential approach is generally much less effective than a parallel or integrated treatment plan.
A sequential treatment plan was the norm for many years, and this process involved treating either the substance abuse problem or the mental health condition, one before the other. These treatments often occurred at different treatment facilities and involved different staff and support personnel.
A parallel approach to dual diagnosis tackles the dual diagnosis from both the substance abuse and the mental health angles at the same time, but the patient receives treatment for each issue from different teams. For example, the individual may spend part of each day at rehab and then go to another facility for mental health treatment. Today, many inpatient dual diagnosis treatment centers use an integrated approach to dual diagnosis cases.
Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment
With an integrated care plan, an individual with a co-occurring mental health disorder receives treatment for both the mental health issue and his or her substance abuse simultaneously in an individualized treatment plan. Such a plan may involve counseling, medical treatment, holistic therapy, and various other treatment methods designed to address both dual diagnosis issues in one continuum of care.
Individualized treatment is crucial for overcoming a dual diagnosis; there is no one-size-fits-all solution to dual diagnosis. Every individual handles mental illness differently. Some people have mental health disorders from natural causes while others develop them over time from various causes. For example, an individual who experienced a traumatic event may start experiencing symptoms of PTSD and turn to drug use to cope. Eventually this will spiral into a full-blown addiction.
Seek Dual Diagnosis Treatment Now
Effective dual diagnosis treatment requires careful examination of the root causes of a patient’s substance abuse and his or her unique mental health condition. People with mental health disorders are more likely to develop substance abuse disorders, so treating one issue without addressing the other is ineffective and often dangerous. An unchecked mental health disorder can cause tremendous stress and suffering for the individual and the people in his or her life. Subsequently, substance abuse will spiral out of control without intervention.
It is essential for anyone struggling with substance abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition to seek treatment as soon as possible. It can be very difficult to acknowledge and confront a substance abuse problem even without a co-occurring mental health disorder. Dual diagnosis cases are even more difficult to approach, which is why seeking treatment from a provider that offers a full continuum of care is essential. The warmth and compassion of the experts at Defining Wellness Centers can address dual diagnosis cases by providing a personalized plan, designed by keeping the 10 Dimensions of Wellness at the forefront of gauging healthy balance.