What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?


Substance abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand, but these issues are frequently treated in isolation from each other. Many people assume substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation and mental health treatment are unique specialties, but in reality they are complimentary treatments which are most effective when combined.

This is the basis of dual diagnosis treatment, a little known term which refers to the presence and treatment of both a psychiatric disorder and substance abuse in the same patient.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says a person who has experienced substance abuse is twice as likely to also exhibit signs of a mood or anxiety disorder compared to someone who is not addicted. Similarly, those who experience mental illness in their life are twice as likely to report substance abuse.

Despite numerous studies showing the efficacy of dual diagnosis treatment, The Foundation Recovery Network claims on 7.4 percent of those who are impacted by dual diagnosis each year receive the appropriate treatment.

So how does dual diagnosis treatment work? It breaks down into a few important points, as explained by Linda Lewis Griffith:

  • Address the substance abuse. Acute drug and alcohol dependencies require supervised detoxification. Drug and alcohol facilities provide a wide array of services, including medical care, medication evaluation, individual and family therapy and relapse prevention.
  • Take medication. Various medications are available to treat both the symptoms of mental illness and drug and nicotine addictions. Some medications treat several problems at once. Zeroing in on the correct medication and dosage can require several attempts. Be patient while your medical provider discovers the best combination for you.
  • Get into psychotherapy. Behavioral treatment (alone or combined with medication) is the cornerstone of successful treatment, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One form of treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy, helps patients identify and change harmful belief systems. It is shown to be successful for children, teens and adults.
  • Join a support group. Many people find ongoing support to be essential for their sobriety. Such groups as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous provide day-to-day assistance from others who have been in the trenches.
  • Get emotional support. Healthy relationships with friends and family let patients know they are loved and give them a safe haven in which to recover. Sometimes friends and family are cited as the cause of the problems. It’s important to select them with care and awareness.

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