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Dual Diagnosis – A (Treatable) Two Headed Monster

July 30, 2014
Treatment of Dual Diagnosis (Addiction + Mental Problem)

Imagine your doctor telling you a severe disease has taken over much of your liver, and if it isn’t treated soon, your life could be in jeopardy. You might look at him in disbelief and start to ask a question, but then he stops you and says there’s more.

He explains that you were dually diagnosed—not only do you have a dangerous liver problem, but a small cancerous tumor was discovered on the left side of your brain. The doctor goes on to explain 3 treatment options:

  1. You could immediately treat the liver problem, and wait to treat the tumor—but in that time the cancer could lethally spread into your brain.
  2. You could have the tumor removed and come back in a month to receive medicine for your liver—but by then you may already be dead.
  3. You could receive simultaneous treatment for both diseases, and leave the hospital a healthy person in two weeks.

“It’s up to you” he says, and intently waits for an answer. Of course the obvious answer is option three—treat both problems at the same time.

Addicted and struggling mentally? You’re not alone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 37% of individuals abusing alcohol and 53% of those struggling with drug abuse have at least one serious mental illness.

And on the flip side, a startling 51% of individuals with mental disorders struggle with at least one serious addiction.

But less than 10% of these dually diagnosed individuals receive proper treatment.
That’s a problem—a problem that may be sending some towards giving up or self-denial. So let’s talk about dual diagnosis, and the important role of a proper recovery.

Dual Diagnosis—a two headed monster

Dual diagnosis is the term given to an individual with two separate but very interrelated diseases—a severe mental problem and an addiction problem. Dual diagnosis mostly manifests itself in two ways:

  • A mental illness and substance disorder(s).
  • Substance disorder(s) and personality disorder(s).

Common Mental illnesses found in dually diagnosed individuals include: Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Although there is some debate questioning what comes first—the mental illness or the substance disorder—no one really knows the answer.

In some cases psychiatric problems can cause a person to conduct forms of “self-treatment”. Drugs and alcohol are taken as a way to deal with the symptoms of the mental problem. As a result, an addiction begins to plagues the individual, and intensify the original problem.

Conversely the opposite is often true. The symptoms of a severe drug or alcohol addict quickly begin to look like many psychiatric disorders. And because of the addiction, mental illness is developed.

Treating Dual Diagnosis

The group “Dual Recovery Anonymous” has created a list of three recovery keys when dealing with co-occurring diseases.

  1. “Today, I will be free of alcohol and other intoxicating drugs.”
  2. “Today, I will follow a healthy plan to manage my emotional or psychiatric illness.”
  3. “Today, I will practice the Twelve Steps to the best of my ability.”

Notice that both issues—the mental illness, and addiction—are addressed in the keys to recovery. Both problems should be treated simultaneously.

When neither problem is treated, one gets worse than the other. And when only one is dealt with, treatment is overall less effective.

The co-occurrence of mental illness and substance abuse has forced many rehab centres, like Hope Trust—located in Hyderabad India—to re-think the treatment process.

A controlled therapeutic environment, like at Hope trust—where mental illnesses are stabilized and treated along side of addiction—is invaluable for dual diagnosis recovery.

If you or someone you know struggles with co-occurring disorders, contact Hope Trust or another viable treatment centre today.