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Dual Diagnosis

Table of Contents

  1. Intro
  2. What is Dual Diagnosis
  3. How it affects people struggling with addiction
  4. How mental health overlaps with substance use disorder
  5. Dual Diagnosis treatment challenges
  6. Symptoms
  7. What happens first
  8. Combined treatment plans for co-occurring disorders
  9. Treating co-occurring disorders in Indiana at Avenues Recovery

1. Intro

When an individual suffers from substance misuse as well mental health problems, we refer to it as dual diagnosis. You will also come upon the terms co-occurrence and co-morbidity in relation to dual diagnosis.

A co-occurrence of behavioral and mental health disorders along with substance abuse disorder is the primary feature of dual diagnosis. Persons who suffer from this condition have to enroll into an integrated treatment plan for curing the dual disorders.

For many people, dual diagnosis is still relatively a new term. However, it is a rampant condition and roughly 45% of addicts have this problem. Let’s take a look at more details below.

2. Dual Diagnosis- What it is

In dual diagnosis, a patient suffers from a drug or alcohol problem and mental disorder too. It is a tricky situation for which experts have to design integrated treatment plans to address both disorders simultaneously.

Being an evolving field, there is still a lot that medical experts have to uncover about dual diagnosis. However, the following are some examples of how such a situation develops:

  • A substance use disorder that results in a mental diagnosis
  • A disorder or mental health problem linking to drug or alcohol use
  • When an individual is already a patient of mental illness and drug or other substance abuse worsens the condition

Like we said, active efforts are underway for uncovering more about this complex situation. Experts claim that there is still a lot more to understand about the relationship dynamics between mental health and misuse problems. They are also working on devising more effective treatment, recovery and prevention strategies and treatment plans.

A mental disorder, co-occurring with a person’s substance abuse problem, has an impact on his/her ability to think, behave and feel. The type of mental illness varies per person and also the way the disorders affect them.

Some of the primary types of mental disorders include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

3. How it affects people struggling with addiction

The experience of all those suffering from dual diagnosis varies per person. For some people, alcohol abuse comes with anxiety or depression while for others, it worsens their schizophrenia. The differences stem from the sort of mental disorder an individual suffers from.

How a patient suffers also depends on the kind of symptoms they suffer, erupting from their mental disorder. Additionally, the sort of alcohol or drug they use and how it intersects with mental health issues makes each person’s experience unique.

The interaction between the two disorders can heavily influence and worsen the patient’s health. This is why medical experts strive to design targeted programs that can cure both disorders together. If you have personally experienced this situation or seen a loved go through it, you’ll know how co-occurring disorders need different treatments.

4. How mental health overlaps with substance use disorder

As per the reports by NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) approximately 45% of addicts have dual diagnosis. If the stats are so high in USA alone, it is not hard to figure how widespread this problem is across the world.

Individuals having mental health conditions are even more vulnerable to substance use disorder. On the other hand, even those who abuse alcohol or drugs are more susceptible to mental or behavioral health disorders.

Due to the higher likelihood of substance abusers falling prey to mental disorders and vice versa, researcher believe a different treatment plan is necessary. They are working actively to discover the root cause of the simultaneous occurrence of both conditions.

So far, medical researchers have concluded a couple of overlapping factors that aggravate the disorders. Let’s take a look them below:

  • Genetic predisposition plays a vital role in making a person more vulnerable to a mental disorder and substance abuse. According to research, nearly forty to sixty percent of a person’s susceptibility to disorders comes from their genes.
  • When a person tends to abuse drugs in a way, it results in symptoms mimicking a mental disorder. Marijuana and cocaine for example, can trigger psychosis.
  • Early age exposure is another overlapping factor. If youngsters have easy access to alcohol and drugs since a young age, they can likely develop the disorders from an early age. It is an established fact that youngsters are comparatively more prone to substance abuse and mental issues than adults.
  • Environmental triggers can kick-start mental disorders and substance abuse. This generally happens in case of traumatic events, persistent anxiety and chromic stress.

5. Dual Diagnosis treatment challenges

Substance abuse and mental disorders are serious on their own and require treatment to cure. But when these conditions co-occur, the condition becomes even more complex. The impact of it is very significant in the patient’s life and all those around him/her.

In fact, it is very common for several other issues to arise in a dual diagnosis condition. Some of these include:

  • Makes diagnosis difficult. It becomes increasingly tricky to verify whether the patient is suffering issues from the mental disorder or the drug abuse. Sometimes certain issues arise due to the combination of both.
  • A person resorts to drugs or alcohol for coping with their mental disorder
  • Co-occurring disorders come with a stigma, which often renders a person incapable of processing their condition and dealing with it effectively.
  • Dual diagnosis may invite severe backlash from society. As a result, patients often suffer high percentage of isolation, homelessness, suicidal tendency, physical deterioration, incarceration, antisocial behavior, violence and more.
  • Overdose and side effects tend to occur more in dual diagnosis. This happens when drug or alcohol interacts with prescribed medications. Often patients have to take drugs for a mental illness as their doctor prescribes.
  • The higher chances of one problem giving rise to risks for other problems. An existing disorder may also worsen when another develops.
  • The difficult challenge of engaging an abuser to enroll into a treatment program or complete the one they’re under.

6. Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

We discussed how the experience of dual diagnosis varies per person. As such, it can become difficult to identify whether or not a person is suffering from co-occurring disorders. Since the pattern is uniform, one has to be even more watchful in case they suspect a loved one or family member is an abuser.

Here are some telltale signs to look for that might help you identify the existence of dual diagnosis in a person:

  • Decline in performance at work, college, school or university etc
  • Increasing financial problems and lack of management
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Erratic behavior
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Disillusioned thinking
  • Neglecting hygiene
  • Becoming increasingly careless with health
  • Withdrawing from social activities and events that you know the person previously enjoyed
  • Inability to manage routine tasks, chores and responsibilities
  • A drastic change in behavior
  • A constant depressed state

7. Dual Diagnosis- What happens first

There really is no way of determining what happens first: whether the mental disorder or the substance abuse problem. There are always variations between substance misuse and mental health per individual.

Several overlapping factors exist; in addition to others such as relationship issues, work problems and trauma etc. All of these factors can increase the risk an individual faces of mental disorders or substance abuse.

8. Combined Treatment Plans for co-occurring disorders

There is no fixed pattern for how the disorders occur. Regardless of what happens first, it is crucial to seek tailored treatment plans that target both disorders proactively. Whether you have a loved one suffering from dual diagnosis or you’re seeking personal help, it is best to avoid separate treatment plans.

You must immediately look for the best inpatient rehab centers around you once you confirm the existence of co-occurring disorders. Rehab centers provide strict supervision and utmost care for patients under the watchful eye of medical experts.

Dual diagnosis involves varying levels of distress, frustration, anxiety and poor health generally.  Only qualified, trained and specialized addition and mental health professionals can provide the level of care patients need.

This is why it is imperative to look for a facility that specializes in the type of co-occurring disorder in question. This is the only way to ensure maximum full recovery potential and effective care. Here are the following questions you must ask to verify how suited the rehab center is for you:

  • Do all the residents here receive individualized treatment plans?
  • How does your staff handle disorders? What measures do you take to prevent a repeat occurrence?
  • Do you have therapy plans that specially treat dual diagnosis?
  • Do your services include aftercare referral?
  • Do you classify both the disorders as separate illnesses or interconnected health issues?
  • Do you have a licensed psychiatric physician or professional who evaluates the patient before admitting them?

9. Treating co-occurring disorders in Indiana at Avenues Recovery

Dual diagnosis is the co-occurrence of a type of mental disorder with problematic substance abuse. This condition has a significant impact on a person’s mental and physical health. It also renders most incapable of thinking, behaving and living optimally.

For dual diagnosis, it is imperative to seek tailored treatment plans that address both disorders together. Separate treatment plan are not appropriate options for dual diagnosis. At Avenues Recovery Indiana, dual diagnosis treatment plans are drawn up separately for each client. Depending on the specific addiction and mental health issue, as well as a focus on the whole of each individual struggle, the Avenues team will ensure that the treatment given to you is one that works for you.

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Brooke Abner,

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