Dual Diagnosis

When a drug addict is given a dual diagnosis, that means that the person suffers from an addiction as well as a mental disorder. It’s not uncommon for a an addict or alcoholic to have a mental illness along with the drug addiction, and even to have a mental illness with symptoms that are remarkably similar to the symptoms of drug abuse or intoxication. These factors make a person with a dual diagnosis one of the most challenging to treat, for both the addiction and the mental illness.

A person given a dual diagnosis must be treated for both the mental disorder and the addiction at the same time. Treating one and not the other only allows the untreated problem to grow and make it more difficult for the person to take control of the one he or she is being treated for. The combined effects of both mental illness and addiction make it much more difficult for the person to remain drug- or alcohol-free, as well as overcome the symptoms of mental illness

There are many drug treatment programs available that specialize in dual diagnosis. If you find the need for you or a loved one to enter into such a program, make sure the program has national accreditation from one or more of the agencies that monitor such programs. And make sure the philosophy of the treatment center falls into line with your own beliefs. There are many choices, from short-term stays with long-term outpatient treatment to long-term stays that help a severely addicted and/or ill person learn how to handle every day pressure and situations without abusing drugs.

For a person with dual diagnosis, it’s important that the initial detoxification, commonly called detox or “drying out,” is done in an inpatient setting where symptoms of the mental disorder can be carefully monitored and treated to make the patient as comfortable and secure as possible.

One of the challenges inherent in a dual diagnosis is determining whether the mental illness caused the drug use, or the drug use played a part in the person developing a mental disorder. Often, the mental problem begins first and leads the person to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to relieve symptoms and anxiety caused by the illness. But in some cases, the dependency develops and causes disorders from depression to more severe mental illness.

It’s suggested that about half of the people with severe mental illness and disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, and that about half of drug addicts and a third of alcoholics also suffer from at least one several mental illness. Unfortunately, most people with a severe mental illness also suffer from more than one mental illness, making a dual diagnosis even more of a challenge to treat.

Another challenge in these cases is that the substance abuse can typically go on much longer than usual before treatment is sought. Drug abuse symptoms can look like symptoms of the illness, so a person with a dual diagnosis can abuse drugs without anyone noticing for some time.

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