Understanding Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis (also known as simultaneous or co-occurring disorders) is a term when a mental illness and a substance use disorder occur simultaneously. However any disorder – substance use or mental illness – can develop first.
Mental Health complexities such as depression may lead to substance abuse and conversely substance abuse may cause mental health issues to manifest and develop such as schizophrenia, paranoia and anxiety11.H. Judd, Substance Use Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Substance Use Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Substance-Use-Disorders.
People with mental illness may turn to alcohol or other drugs as self-medication to improve mental health symptoms. However, research shows that alcohol and other drugs worsen the symptoms of mental illness.
The occupational fields of mental health and the substance treatment are often polar opposites in terms of treatment modalities so it can often be difficult to find a treatment facility or rehab specialized in integrated care22.K. Hryb, R. Kirkhart and R. Talbert, A Call for Standardized Definition of Dual Diagnosis – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880934/.
How Common is Dual Diagnosis?
According to the National Drug Use and Health Survey, 9.2 million U.S. adults had both mental illness and substance use disorder last year. Since many combinations of double diagnoses can occur, the symptoms are very different. A number of years ago psychiatric clinics began using alcohol and drug screening tools to identify people at risk of drug and alcohol abuse.
Symptoms of substance use disorder
- Retreat from friends and family
- Sudden changes in
- Use of substances under dangerous conditions
- Risky behavior
- Loss of control over the use of substances
- Development of a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
- Feel like you need medication to work
Symptoms of a mental illness
- Extreme mood swings
- Confused thinking
- Problems concentrating
- Avoiding friends
- Avoiding social activities
- Suicidal thoughts
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
According to the The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the best treatment for dual diagnosis is integrated intervention when a person is cared for both for their diagnosed mental illness and for drug abuse by the same team at the same time. Dual Diagnosis issues can make recovery from addiction harder and until they are addressed, they will function as endless prompts to chronic relapse.
You and your practitioner should understand how each disease affects the other and how your treatment can be most effective. Treatment planning is not the same for everyone, but the following are the common methods used in the treatment plan:
Types of Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment
Detoxification is usually more effective than outpatient detoxification for reasons of sobriety and safety. During inpatient detoxification, trained medical personnel monitor a person around the clock for up to seven days. The staff can administer tapered amounts of the substance or its medical alternative to wean a person and reduce the effects of the withdrawal.
A person suffering from a mental illness and having dangerous and / or dependent patterns of substance use can benefit from an inpatient rehabilitation center where they can receive medical and psychological care around the clock.
Sober Living Communities
Luxury Sober Living, like group houses or sober houses, is an inpatient treatment center that can help people who are newly sober or who are trying to avoid relapse. These centers offer support and independence. Sober houses have been criticized for offering different levels of care quality as they are generally not managed by licensed professionals.
Therapy is usually an important part of an effective treatment plan with double diagnosis. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular helps people with double diagnosis to deal with and change ineffective thought patterns, which can increase the risk of substance use.
Medications are useful for treating mental illness and certain medications can also help people with substance use disorders to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms during the detoxification process and promote recovery.
Comorbidity Vs Dual Diagnosis
Dual Diagnosis is a medial term listed in DSM 5and used to describe a person suffering from both a mental health disorder and substance abuse at the same time. Dual Diagnosis is also known medically as as co-occurring disorders or comorbidity.
The phrase “comorbidity” describes two or more mental health disorders occurring in the same person. Technically, according to DSM-5, a person can receive more than one personality disorder diagnosis. Indeed, it is often the case that people who are diagnosed with a personality disorder may also meet the criteria for multiple manifestations hence the term multiple personality disorder.
Dual Diagnosis Statistics
The lifetime prevalence of a dual diagnosis is:
- 47% for people with schizophrenia
- 56% for those struggling with bipolar disorder
- 78% for people seeking treatment for drug problems
Six percent of people admitted to hospital in a psychiatric treatment center in 2019 were diagnosed with a dual diagnosis of alcohol-free drug use disorder, 4% with alcohol-use disorder, and 4% with alcohol and other drugs.
Mental illnesses can be associated with certain specific substances and the effects of various substances tend to interact with certain mental health problems in a semi-predictable manner. Often, the effects of a particular substance being abused counteract the symptoms of the corresponding psychological state – for example, relaxing medications are used more often by people with anxiety disorders.
Substance Abuse & Mental Health
Drug abuse problems are commonly related to a specific group of mental health problems, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa)
- Antisocial personality disorder
60-80% of those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder were found to have alcoholism, and 20-40% of those diagnosed with alcoholism were also diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder33.H. Smith, The epidemiology of dual diagnosis, The epidemiology of dual diagnosis – ScienceDirect.; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006322304007395.
People who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to use stimulants (such as nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana), although it is often unclear whether the mental disorder or drug abuse occurred first.
Alcohol misuse is also linked to depression and anxiety. One study found that people who were diagnosed with alcohol consumption disorder were 4 times more likely to suffer from depression and 3 times more likely to experience anxiety disorders.
The mental disorder most related to substance abuse is bipolar disorder. Some estimates assume a lifetime prevalence of 50-60%. This means that the likelihood that substance use and bipolar disorder will occur together is 50 to 60%44.B. Nomatez, Dual diagnosis, Dual diagnosis – ScienceDirect.; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1476179307001383.
Confusing Substance Disorder with Mental Disorder
Sometimes drug abuse looks like a mental disorder because substance use and abuse can cause symptoms that are otherwise associated with organic mental health problems. These symptoms differ somewhat from those of an independent mental disorder itself, as they are a direct result of substance use and can usually be treated more quickly by discontinuing the substance.
These symptoms may be related to a specific pattern of abuse, poisoning effects of, and a withdrawal syndrome associated with the substance.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Methamphetamine-induced psychosis or mania.
- Severe anxiety due to withdrawal of benzodiazepines.
- Depression due to discontinuation of stimulants.
- Korsakoff syndrome (memory and cognitive problems) due to chronic alcohol abuse.
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- 11.H. Judd, Substance Use Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Substance Use Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Substance-Use-Disorders
- 22.K. Hryb, R. Kirkhart and R. Talbert, A Call for Standardized Definition of Dual Diagnosis – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880934/
- 33.H. Smith, The epidemiology of dual diagnosis, The epidemiology of dual diagnosis – ScienceDirect.; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006322304007395
- 44.B. Nomatez, Dual diagnosis, Dual diagnosis – ScienceDirect.; Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1476179307001383
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