An Explanation to Dual Diagnosis

An Explanation to Dual Diagnosis

Around twenty years ago, dual diagnoses began to see light. The simple definition for one is when a drug or alcohol addiction co-occurring with a mental disorder.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse has claimed that individuals who abuse substances are twice as likely to suffer from a disorder of some sort.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, close to nine million Americans are currently experiencing dual diagnoses.  The unfortunate truth is, only 7.4 percent of those Americans receive drug and alcohol treatment for both their drug and alcohol addiction and co-occuring mental disorder.  More than half don’t receive any treatment at all.

These statistics give us some insight as to how dual diagnoses are still all too unknown.  More often than not, individuals suffering from substance addiction don’t realize there are drug treatment options out there to care for both issues.  Therefore, it becomes very difficult to treat one issue when another one is still present.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illnesses are Commonly Combined


As mentioned above, it’s very common for individuals struggling with substance use to also face some sort of mental disorder.  There are also instances where drugs can commence a mental disorder.  In an example, psychedelic substances (such as LSD, PCP, or mushrooms) have been known to cause schizophrenia in certain individuals.

More commonly, however, the opposite is true – a person with a mental disorder will seek out alcohol and/or other substances to self-medicate which in turn may cause dependence or addiction.  This is not only true for alcohol and street drugs, but also for prescription drugs given to them by their doctor.  Benzodiazepines tend to be the most commonly abused prescription drugs, specifically Xanax.  Xanax treats anxiety disorders and can be highly addictive.  Even those with a prescription from a doctor can fall into dangerous dependence on the drug and experience serious withdrawals after even one week of continued use.

And even if somebody with anxiety doesn’t go to a doctor, there are substances widely available that make people feel more socially calm.  The most notable being alcohol.

Diagnosing and Integrated Treatment


In order to properly dual diagnose an individual, they must undergo an integrated screening protocol or a clinical evaluation for drug and alcohol use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), these individuals who’re admitted into addiction treatment should immediately be screened for both addiction and mental health.  With each problem being assessed at the same time, only then can a solution be worked towards.

It should be noted that treating an addiction and nothing more tends to be less effective than that of treating both an addiction and mental illness.  The reason being – as the statistics above have told us – many individuals who suffer from addiction usually suffer from a mental disorder as well.

Further, individuals who only get treated for one issue generally don’t have the tools to handle the other.   Let’s say someone has recovered from drug addiction, yet, continues to face a large amount of anxiety.  If they do not seek proper medical attention for their anxiety, this can lead them down either of two paths:

  1. Relapse; going back to substances as a means of relieving anxiety.
  2. Absolute confusion; without proper guidance, individuals are still in danger of harming themselves and others (even without drugs) due to the fact that they are unaware of how to control their emotion.

The purpose of integrated drug treatment is to reduce an individual’s use of substances while improving their mental health.  It can be expected that integrated treatment will help one problem in relation to the other.  The goal of dual diagnosis is to let individuals understand the source of their past experiences as a means of discovering how to solve future dilemmas.

Though drug therapy sessions can be expected in addiction treatment, with dual diagnosis, one can expect pharmacotherapy as well.  Along with this, one can expect psychotherapy (or talk therapy) as well.  The purpose of this is to help patients discover the true influences of both their addiction and their mental illness.

Which Treatment is Best for Dual Diagnosis?


One of the most prominent ways to treat individuals who’re dual diagnosed is through behavioral interventions. The following are commonly found in treating dual diagnosis:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A means of creating healthier thinking and behavioral patterns for the sake of individuals staying sober. It can be expected that this will work at minimizing problematic beliefs and behaviors.
  • Integrated Group Therapy: A conversation amongst other dual diagnosed individuals that seeks to treat the symptoms of both substance abuse disorders and mental health conditions.
  • Dialectic Behavioral Therapy: Often, substance abuse disorders and addiction go hand-in-hand with self-harming behaviors. This is an effort to diminish that.
  • Individual Psychotherapy: Treats the behaviors often associated with mental health issues and substance abuse.

Due to the fact that everyone has different needs and preferences on how to carry out their treatment, it’s very likely that people will undergo different methods as a means of treating their dual diagnosis.  The only way to properly determine which form of addiction treatment will be most beneficial to you is to speak with a professional substance abuse counselor.

Below, we will look into the options of inpatient treatment and outpatient, however, it is highly recommended you complete an evaluation with a trained mental health professional to figure out which method of treatment will serve your specific circumstance the best.

Inpatient Treatment


More often than not, inpatient treatment is recommended for individuals with a dual diagnosis. This is when a person is placed in a residential rehabilitation program where he/she will live under the supervision of professionals.  It was mentioned earlier that individuals in certain environments will react to their addiction or mental health differently.

In an inpatient program, individuals will be in not only a safe environment, but one that’s supervised by professionals.  Dual diagnoses aren’t an easy matter to handle.  Therefore, these professionals along with ongoing support are very much a necessity.

Given, there will be times when the drug and alcohol treatment can feel very intensive.  Dual diagnoses are complex when one is trying to find a solution.  To cure two diseases in one session is to completely change one’s perspective on life and that of which is around them.  With inpatient treatment, individuals will have the opportunity to stay in one place and focus on their dilemma.

With an inpatient treatment, you can expect the following:

  • Daily therapy sessions.
  • The chance to be apart of support groups on a daily basis.
  • A community of a variety of individuals who’re in the same position.
  • The opportunity to receive consistent and professional about substance abuse and mental health.

Outpatient Treatment


The difference from an inpatient treatment is an intensive outpatient treatment allows individuals to get the care they need without committing to residency.  Usually taking around 10 weeks, individuals in outpatient treatment are allowed to go about their day-to-day lives if they have important responsibilities; work, school, a family, etc.

You can expect to receive the same kind of counseling and professional help you would from an inpatient treatment, but since you aren’t living in a facility, there’s a larger degree of personal responsibility.  In other words, how seriously you decide to take the treatment is entirely up to your willingness for a change.

Just like the inpatient program, it’s important to have the right motivation.  Individuals shouldn’t be forced into this situation out of their own will.

There’s one vital factor that’s also important to be aware of.  Being that your environment isn’t as controlled, there’s more of a chance to give into substances. Keeping this in mind, it’s essential to have self-control through an outpatient program.  That responsibility is the key to a successful treatment.

With an outpatient treatment, you can expect the following;

  • Group therapy three times a week for three hours a session.
  • The ability to live independently.
  • Peer support, community group, or 12-step program involvement.

If you or anyone you love is suffering from addiction and/or co-occuring mental disorder(s), or would like more information on the topics discussed above, please, give Stonewall Institute Treatment Center a call today at (602) 535-6468 or email us at

Change is possible, Stonewall Institute Treatment Center can help you change your life.

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