Dual Diagnosis Basics

dual diagnosisAccording to the experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individuals who suffer from a mental disorder are more likely to also suffer from drug abuse or addiction than the general population. The reasons for this are not completely understood, despite the exhaustive research conducted over the years. There are several theories, however, that may explain the relationships.

For instance, some mental disorders share many of the same risk factors as drug abuse and addiction. Someone who has a history of depression in their family is more likely to experience depression just like someone who has a family history of drug addiction is more likely to suffer from addiction should they be exposed to the abuse of drugs or alcohol. An individual who suffers from early childhood trauma or abuse is more likely to suffer from either a mental disorder, like anxiety or depression, drug addiction or both. Both stress and the pleasure and reward system affected by drug use touch the same regions of the human brain. Drug addiction and other mental health issues can develop early in a person’s life, depending upon the circumstances, and if someone is exposed to drug addiction early in their life, they increase the risk of also developing another type of mental disorder.

Other possibilities for the strong relationship between co-occurring disorders have to do with the preexistence of one or the other type of illness. Someone who suffers from addiction will often experience circumstances in their life that can lead to anxiety or depression. For example, if a young mother of two small children finds herself unable to purchase shelter and food for her children because she is compelled to spend what money she has on drugs, she may find she develops depression. She might suffer from anxiety as she worries over how she is going to pay her rent. She may lose her job due to her addiction, worsening the problem exponentially. It is also possible that she didn’t begin to use drugs until after she lost her job and developed a depression or anxiety disorder as she found herself overwhelmed. It is even possible that her use of drugs was an attempt to self-medicate her depression or anxiety so she could function in her job or in her role as mother, but her attempts led to the much worse problem of a dual diagnosis addiction.

A Responsible Treatment Program Will Look for Dual Diagnosis Conditions

When the woman realized that her drug use was out of her control, she began to look for options to help her. Her friends offered to help her stop using drugs by not using drugs around her. Her family offered her a place to stay more than once, but they were unable to help over time because she continually abused their hospitality and efforts by using drugs after she’d promised to stop. If this scenario sounds familiar, there is good reason.

Drug addiction is a disease that is often marked by relapse. It is a chronic condition for which there is no single treatment or cure. Just as it is highly unlikely that an individual can recover from diabetes or hypertension without the help of medical professionals, it is incredibly difficult to stop abusing drugs without a treatment program. Part of this reasoning is because, if an individual like this woman suffers from a dual diagnosis, simply not using drugs will not solve the problem.

Because the woman still suffered from the anxiety and depression conditions, her attempts to stop using drugs failed. She was able to stop using drugs for a few days or weeks, here and there, but in the end, her anxiety and her depression seemed to get the better of her. Both drug abuse and other mental conditions change the way a person thinks, which then changes how they behave. For example, if a person suffering from depression sees no reason to improve their life, they will have no reason to stay free of drug use. They know that if they take a stimulant, they will feel more active and more alive. They will feel better, so why not take the drug and at least try to feel normal?

An effective treatment program will begin with a fully

comprehensive assessment period that looks specifically for the most common dual diagnosis conditions. By doing so, they can develop a treatment program that incorporates all of the elements needed for the greatest success. A residential treatment program goes a step further, as well, by removing the concerns about immediate housing and shelter from the equation.

There are other benefits to an inpatient treatment program as well, such as:

  • Inpatient treatment creates a drug-free environment that is beneficial to remaining abstinent for a longer period of time during initial recovery.
  • Residential treatment centers have a routine that can help an individual develop healthier habits.
  • Residential treatment facilities provide education about one’s illness or illnesses to both the recovering addict and their family.
  • Residential facilities can provide around-the-clock access to therapists and medical providers.
  • Residents of an inpatient facility can devote 100 percent of their time and attention to their own recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatments Must Occur at the Same Time to Be Effective

It might seem overwhelming to undergo treatment for more than one condition at a time. Wouldn’t it be easier to deal with the drug addiction, and then go back to handle any co-occurring disorders?  Dual diagnosis conditions are like a vicious cycle, unfortunately. One often feeds the other, so it is best to undergo treatment simultaneously.

Finding a Residential Treatment Facility for Dual Diagnosis

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that the most effective treatment centers will have certain aspects that have been proven to help those afflicted with addiction. Recognizing dual diagnosis conditions and addressing those needs are only some of the important details to which one should pay attention. Finding the right treatment center for you or your loved one might seem a bit daunting at first, but there are ways to level the playing field.

An effective treatment center should always:

  • Be readily available. When someone is ready to begin treatment, it is essential that a treatment center be ready. Given time to think it over, someone who needs treatment may be compelled to continue using drugs.
  • Be able to address multiple needs, not just multiple illnesses. Individuals suffering from drug addiction may have issues with legal authorities in the form of civil complaints or criminal charges which can add undue stress to the recovery process. They might be lacking in vocational skills they’ll need to use when they enter or return to the workforce. They may be lacking is social skills due to their learned behaviors relating to the drug culture or environment. Proper education and coaching should be available to help them reenter society on an even keel.
  • Provide ongoing treatment for a period that is “long enough” to make a difference.  The length of time that an individual remains in treatment will be determined by the severity of the addiction, the severity of the co-occurring disorder(s) as well as how well they respond to the treatments they receive.
  • Offer evidence-based methods of treatment, including family and group therapy, cognitive behavior therapy or complementary therapies.
  • Be flexible enough to change as the recovering person’s needs change. If the individual in recovery is responding exceptionally well to treatment, the process may be adjusted to reflect this. If the individual experiences a setback that delays treatment, this should also be taken into consideration.

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, and you are concerned there may be another mental disorder at play, getting help quickly can make a world of difference. Contact us here at Axis right away, and we will be more than happy to give you the benefit of our experience when it comes to dual diagnosis. Getting help can be the most important step you’ll ever take toward reaching your full potential for a life free of drug abuse.