Too Few Rehab and Mental Health Centers Offer Dual Diagnosis Treatment

dual-diagnosisDrug rehab and mental health centers that specialize in treating all of a person’s  problems associated with both substance abuse and the myriad of mental health issues in a single individual person- have more success in producing the most positive and ideal outcome in a patient’s ‘total’ recovery from more than one diagnosed addiction or mental disorder. However, even with this being proven by research and statistics- there are still too few drug  rehab treatment centers that offer what is known as integrated or dual diagnosis treatment.

Dual diagnosis is used interchangeably with co-morbidity, co-occurring illnesses, concurrent disorders, comorbid disorders, and dual disorder. Because of confusion among non medical personnel, professionals have begun to use the word dual diagnosis to describe this array of interrelated disorders.

People who experience a dual diagnosis have a wide range of psychological and social illnesses and suffer from more than two illnesses. Co-occurring disorders is the most common term used to refer to dual diagnosis and often in conjunction with substance abuse disorders and psychiatric or emotional illnesses. The principal way to diagnose a person with this disorder is that they are suffering a psychiatric disease as well as chemical dependency.

These conditions often go hand and hand; a drug or alcohol dependency with a emotional or mental illness. Both of these illnesses affect an individual physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually. Both of these conditions have symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively and often affect their relationships to others, both personal and at work.

In order to be considered a dual diagnosis disorder and illness must not be two separate illnesses but instead they must interact with each other. The illnesses may be parasitic to each other and if one illness is conquered there is a higher chance of recurrence because one disease predisposes to the other. Sometimes the symptoms can overlap and in some cases mask the other disease which makes diagnosis and treatment more difficult.

According to

“Co-occurring mental health conditions and substance abuse affect nearly 8.9 million yearly. Only 7.4% receive appropriate treatment. Few programs specialize in treating dual diagnosis. Research reveals that people with co-occurring disorders need specialized integrated treatment.”

Sometimes these individuals try to recover from one illness but fail to acknowledge that the other exists. A person typically neglects the mental illness and as they choose to ignore it, the illness may reoccur.

This often leads the person to self-medicate through drug use, usually pot, cocaine, or other easily acquirable drugs. Eventually lack of progress towards recovery will alienate the person and lead to feelings of failure. This is heavily damaging to the persons self esteem, making recovery much harder.

A person may sincerely try to recover from one illness and not acknowledge the other. As a person neglects his or her mental illness, that illness may recur. This recurrence may, in turn, lead a person to feel the need to “self-medicate” through drug use. Over time, the lack of progress toward recovery on both fronts may trigger feelings of failure and alienation.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is the damage that occurs to the individual’s self-esteem. Since there is not a single type of dual diagnosis it is very hard to treat and requires that multiple methods be attempted. Because of the unique dual diagnosis treatment methods it is important that each case be handled differently.

There are a variety of steps dual diagnosis treatment programs take, but the basics are:

  • Treat must address both the substance abuse problem and the mental health issue.
  • The person should be as active as possible in the decision making of their dual diagnosis treatment and actively set goals and strategies for change.
  • The dual diagnosis treatment includes education about the person’s disorders and related problems
  • The patient is taught coping skills and strategies to minimize the chance that they will go back to substance abuse and to strengthen their relationships.

What to treat first, the mental health problem or the substance abuse? Usually alcohol and drugs are used to medicate the underlying mental issue, so it is important that the person be observed before and during the dual diagnosis treatment carefully. On the other hand, substance abuse can acutely increase the effects of mental illness and is often an antagonist.

As with any substance abuse program, it should be licensed and accredited and specialized in dual diagnosis treatments. It should also cover the disorder of the person in question, such as bi polar disorder or anxiety problems.

Few drug treatment centers specialize in treating complex co-occurring disorders. Medical research continues to reveal that people with co-occurring disorders need a specialized form of treatment, referred to as integrated services or dual diagnosis treatment, to optimize their chances of fully recovering from “all” of their problems.

“A Better Tomorrow of Murrieta Drug Rehab in Murrieta …” Insert Name of Site in Italics. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2013 <>.

Written by Tony Clark

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