Dual diagnosis is a state when substance abuse co-exists with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about a third of people who are experiencing mental illnesses are at the same time drug abusers. Vice versa, a third of alcohol abusers and almost a half of drug abusers have or develop mental conditions.
The problem of dual diagnosis lays in particular difficulty of determining which of the two conditions is the primary one and which followed as a result. Mental illnesses and drug abuse have a wide range of ways of interference. There are plenty of cases when people struggling with mental issues are unable or reluctant to seek help and start self-medicating with toxic substances causing falling into addiction. In many other cases, substance abuse that has plenty of effects on person’s mood and behavior leads to developing various mental disorders.
In other words, when substance consumption follows first, it may cause or aggravate already existing, but non-threatening mental issue. Those suffering from initial mental issues may develop addiction by self-administering various prescription drugs or drowning their long-term life unhappiness in alcohol or drugs. Drug abuse may also lead to assumption a person has a false mental issue, as many withdrawal symptoms successfully imitate certain psychiatric disorders. All of the aforementioned aspects make the process of determining the correct diagnosis much more complicated. And whatever follows first, substance abuse always worsens state of mental health by triggering illnesses’ development.
Most common mental illnesses that accompany substance abuse are:
- Bipolar Disorder,
- Major Depression,
- Anxiety Disorder,
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
- various eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia etc.),
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,
- and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Despite the fact that dual diagnosis is so common among drug users, variety of combinations of mental issues and drugs significantly complicates their treatment. People suffering from dual diagnosis should have both their conditions cured simultaneously. Often treating such patients start with detoxification to confirm whether they actually have co-occurring mental condition, which can be diagnosed correctly only if a person is clean and sober.
If a person indeed has dual diagnosis, the most effective way towards recovery is integrated treatment. It should be arranged strictly individually for each patient depending on a combination of mental disorder and substance one’s abusing and severity of each of the conditions. In situations of dual diagnosis relapse is even more dangerous, as it could seriously reduce or even nullify all the achievements of previous treatment period. That is the reason why patients suffering from dual diagnosis are required to undertake inpatient care with 24/7 control, professional supervision and supportive environment.
After dual diagnosis has been proven to exist and individualized care program has been created, it is time to start treatment. To deal with mental health issues,medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, support groups, family and friend support and general safe, non-toxic environment have proven to be highly effective.
To ensure good addiction therapy,detoxification, further sobriety and following instructions of doctors are necessary.
To establish successful post-treatment recovery one must undertakeregular professional checks, establish good self-care and ensure enough social support by close people who will help the person to monitor their everyday condition, preventing them from relapses and maintaining good quality of their life.