What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?

Dual diagnosis means a person has a substance abuse and a mental health condition or mental illness combined. Clinicians might also refer to a dual diagnosis as a co-occurring disorder. Both dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders support a diagnosis of substance use disorder and a mental health disorder (such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD) at the same time.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Problems

Understanding that drug abuse if serious enough will lead to addition is important. Withdrawal symptoms are not pleasant and many times require a medical detoxification. When an addict or alcoholic seeks help, many times their active using presents as mental illness when in fact it is the drugs in their system.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders are over arching and encompassing multiple drugs and alcohol abuse. Many doctors will narrow things down to a more specific diagnosis once a complete history and physical is obtained.

During assessments at a facility or a doctor’s office a persons history of substance use, the amount they are currently using and from what age are all considered. In addition, a physical will help a doctor see where someone is at currently and then if needed tests are ordered.

Almost all professionals and facilities treating substance use disorders will accept those who are depressed, feeling anxious, and having ups and downs. Unless a person has previously been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, that will be left until detoxification has been completed.

Urine drug tests are almost always done on site with a sample sent to a lab. Some doctors will order a battery of blood tests or ask that they be brought in with them to the facility.

Mental Health Conditions

For some, when they quit using drugs and alcohol, they clear up and what was perceived as a mental health condition was simple drug induced.

Mental health conditions will vary from person to person. Extreme mood changes, seeming confused, isolating, pulling away from friends and loved ones can also be signs of actively using drugs.

Mental Illness

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses can be associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

There is a double edge sword when it comes to mental illness.

What came first the mental illness or the using of drugs?

Did mental illness cause someone to start using drugs and alcohol to self medicate?

Mental disorders and their origin are usually the last thing professional and patients start with. The most important process is finding stability and happiness.

Treating Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis can make treatment more complex, as both the substance abuse and the mental health disorder need to be treated simultaneously, but in todays world most mental health clinics and addiction treatment facilities are equipped to treat dual diagnoses.

Integrated Treatment and Care for Dual Diagnosis

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), There are three models for delivering care for dually diagnosed people with co-occurring disorders:

  1. Coordinated

  2. Co-located

  3. Fully integrated.

With integrated care, a more complete recovery is possible.

The goal of integrated care for someone with a dual diagnosis is better quality of life.

If someone has a primary mental illness and a secondary substance abuse problem, some drug and alcohol rehab facilities are not allowed to admit them.

If you are seeking help and question if the mental illness is worse than the addition or alcoholism mental health professionals will be able to guide you. You can ask for an assessment in person or over the phone to get things started.

Co occurring mental disorders

Mental health disorders that most mimic severe symptoms of drug use are:

Bipolar Disorder –

Although you can treat a bipolar disorder simultaneously as a substance addiction, medical detox and inpatient rehabilitation is the best starting place. This dual disorder must have the drugs completely removed to have success at recovery.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder –

Having post traumatic stress disorder is a mental health issue often discovered while someone is in treatment. Many times self medication has been saving someone from facing traumatic events that happened in the past.

MAjor Depressive Disorder –

Major depression disorder is often exhibited by a persistent low mood lasting 2 years with 2 other depression symptoms. This combined with opioids or alcohol is a dual diagnosis that has many treatment options. But the first step is to stop drinking and/or using drugs.

Dual Diagnosis Recovery

People who seek recovery from addiction want to get their lives back. Most will not describe themselves as having a substance use disorder, they will refer to themselves as being addicted to a substance like opioids, fentanyl, alcohol, and other prescribed or illicit drugs.

People who know they have a problem with substance use and mental disorders will usually seek dual diagnosis treatment.

Recovery is possible and there are free support groups throughout the United States they do not cost a penny. Emotional and social support are important to live happy.

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