The repeated use of drugs and/or alcohol (aka., substance abuse disorders) is a prevalent problem in the U.S. and the world over.
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), over 20 million Americans are diagnosed with substance abuse disorders every year.
Such is the urgency of the issue that drug overdoses in America have been labelled an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—with roughly 70,000 people losing their lives to a drug overdose in 2018.
While substance abuse disorders are already a major problem in the U.S. society, their severity is compounded by an increased risk of mental health problems. This is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders—and it’s a concept that remains relatively misunderstood.
Read on for more on facts, statistics, and elaborations that demystifying/shed light on the issue of co-occurring disorders with the aim of helping improve dual diagnosis treatment.
What is Dual Diagnosis?
‘Dual diagnosis’ is a broad and common term that’s used to describe the coexistence of alcohol or drug abuse disorders and a mental health disorder(s). Other alternative terms used by health experts include “co-occurring,” “co-morbidity,” “co-existing,” or “mentally ill substance abusers (MISA).”
It encompasses anyone who uses addictive substances in a problematic way and he/she has a diagnosable mental health problem. The combinations of the disorders vary greatly depending on several factors. It may include alcohol use disorder (AUD) and depression, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and heroin addiction, or addiction to prescription medication and anxiety disorders, etc.
Facts About Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Now that you’re well-aware of what is dual diagnosis, here are a few things you need to know about the condition.
Dual Diagnosis is Not New
As novel as it may sound, dual diagnosis is nothing new to the medical world. According to an article appearing in the Psychiatry Journal, co-occurring disorders were first identified in the ‘80s. There has been roughly 4 decades of research and the development of specialized dual diagnosis treatment modalities to address both disorders effectively to improve outcomes.
Co-Occurring Disorders are More Common Than Most People Assume
The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that approximately 5 in every 10 people with a substance abuse disorder will also suffer from a mental disorder—and vice versa. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there were around 9 million Americans with dual diagnosis in 2018—out of 20 million people with a substance abuse disorder.
It’s important to note that some people are at a higher risk of developing co-occurring disorders than others. For example, a report by the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI), suggests that military veterans and men are more likely to suffer from co-morbidity.
Therefore, families and loved ones of people struggling with addiction should realize that an underlying mental health problem might be a contributing factor to the behavior—and they should consider visiting a dual diagnosis treatment center.
Some Mental Disorders are More Common in Dual Diagnosis
The connection between mental health disorders and drug addiction is clear—and any number of combinations can develop. But according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), certain mental disorders are more common in co-morbidity.
The reports show that people who abuse alcohol (38%), cocaine (44%), and cigarette’s (40%) also have an existing mental health disorder. Similarly, people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at one time in their lives consume 68% of cigarettes, 84% of cocaine, and 69% of alcohol.
Co-Occurring Disorders are Difficult to Diagnose
The National Drug Intelligence Center (part of the U.S. Department of Justice) notes that diagnosing co-occurring disorders is a persistent challenge due to the complexity of the symptoms. That is, they tend to exacerbate, synergize, and intertwine—making the diagnosis task challenging.
Some of the common signs/symptoms of co-morbidity include:
- Increased consumption/abuse of drugs or alcohol.
- Being reckless and engaging in risky behavior.
- Addicts with a history of mental health problems.
- Abusing drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to ease psychological challenges.
- Developing tolerance for abused substances.
- Intense/prolonged feelings of despair.
- Angry, violent, or suicidal thoughts when trying to quit the abused drug.
- Social withdrawal and a tendency for isolation.
- Depending on alcohol/drugs to tackle daily activities or to function normally.
- Changes in behavior and erratic moods.
- Confusion and trouble concentrating.
- Withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop or reduce consumption.
Without proper care and dual diagnosis treatment, it’s easy to treat one issue while others are missed/ignored. This is one of the reasons why you should not compromise on your dual diagnosis treatment centers.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse May Look Like a Mental Health Disorder
Some symptoms that arise directly from a substance abuse disorder may be similar to those seen in a mental health disorder. They may be related to withdrawal symptoms associated with the abused substance, intoxication, or patterns of abuse.
For example, chronic alcohol abuse is liked to Korsakoff’s syndrome—which is characterized by cognitive and memory problems. Similarly, stopping benzodiazepines often results in anxiety—while the withdrawal symptoms of some stimulants elicit depressive symptoms.
Dual Diagnosis Disorder Occur in 3 Possible Ways
Although co-occurring disorders occur together (it’s in the name), it does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. They occur in either of 3 ways:
- Self-Medication: People with an underlying mental health problem such as depression or anxiety may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to temporarily relieve their symptoms – i.e., self-medication. For example, someone suffering from panic attacks may take Valium, Xanax, or any other benzodiazepine to stay calm. Or a patient struggling with a social anxiety disorder may take alcohol to feel more comfortable in social settings. With prolonged use, the user may develop tolerance—and hence addiction.
- Mental Disorders as a Consequence of a Substance Abuse Disorder: Extreme/prolonged abuse of drugs and alcohol may alter or damage the brain—leading to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. From another perspective, drug and alcohol abuse may put people in dangerous situations such as violence or rape that may lead to mental health disorders like PTSD and depression.
- Risk Factors: Sometimes neither of the co-occurring disorders cause the other. Instead, they both arise due to risk factors such as trauma, stress, or genetics.
Co-Occurring Disorders have Far-Reaching Implications
Co-occurring disorders may affect the physical, mental, emotional, and social life of the patient. The disorders worsen the symptoms of each other—making the negative impact more severe. For example, someone with depression may experience worse alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This increases the risk of relapse and reduces the success of recovery.
Effective Dual Diagnosis Treatment Should be Integrated
For a long time, co-occurring disorders were treated sequentially or separately/parallelly. Under sequential treatment, one disorder (e.g., alcohol addiction) is treated first—and the other disorder (e.g., depression) is treated afterwards. The issue with this approach is that the risk of relapse is higher—owing to the time lapse between the treatments.
On the other hand, parallel/separate treatment address the co-occurring disorders at the same time—but in different treatment facilities or by different mental health experts. This raises issues when it comes to offering effective and individualized treatment plans since neither medical professionals/institution have a comprehensive picture of the client’s state and progress.
And according to the Treatment Improvement Protocol by SAMHSA—which we observe here at Oro House Recovery Centers, “significant gaps remain in the accurate and timely assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of people with co-occurring disorders…providers and administrators must collectively place more focus on dual diagnosis disorders in their work…to help make long-term recovery an attainable goal for all clients with CODs.”
Statements such as “We cannot treat your mental health problem because you have a substance abuse disorder (or vice versa),” are outdated in this day and age. It might have been the norm before the ‘80s—but nowadays both issues are addressed concurrently (i.e., dual diagnosis treatment).
Integrated dual diagnosis treatment deals with co-occurring disorders at the time, together, and in the same dual diagnosis treatment center. It’s a comprehensive and personalized rehabilitation program that offers a wide variety of evidence-based treatment modalities to effectively support recovery and general wellness.
With this in mind, it’s advisable to seek medical care in a dual diagnosis treatment facility that offers integrated treatment and is well-equipped/staffed to handle the complexity of co-occurring disorders.
A Surprisingly Large Number of Drug Rehab Facilities are Not Equipped for Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Although the mental health world has been well aware of co-occurring for around 4 decades, dual diagnosis treatment is still lagging.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), barely 7% of adults with dual diagnosis received treatment for both disorders in the same mental health/addiction treatment facility. Approximately half of them were forced to visit different specialized facilities for each of their co-occurring disorders.
Similarly, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS) found that more than 50% of mental health/addiction facilities did not offer integrated treatment that addresses co-occurring disorders simultaneously to improve recovery and reduce the risk of relapse.
There is No One-Size-Fits-All Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Each dual diagnosis patient is unique in their own respect. For this reason, dual diagnosis treatment should be individualized. It should consider the exact co-occurring disorders, their severity, length of suffering, and personality among other factors.
A credible dual diagnosis facility will:
- Run a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose all mental disorders and identify the degree of drug or alcohol abuse. The aim is to pinpoint possible risk factors or underlying issues that may hinder the recovery process early on.
- Create an individualized and integrated dual diagnosis treatment plan based on the unique characteristics of the patient.
- Offer and carefully monitor detox to help reduce dependence on the abused substance—while managing withdrawal symptoms.
- Deliver a mix of evidence-based/holistic treatment therapies to manage and treat co-occurring disorders.
- Ensure continued care even after rehabilitation to mitigate the risk of relapse and ensure a long-lasting recovery.
- There is No Quick Fix for Co-Occurring Disorders
Treating both the substance abuse disorder and mental health problem under one roof is the most effective way to tackle co-occurring disorders. This, however, does not translate to an ‘easier’ recovery journey. There is no quick fix and the complex nature of co-morbidity cannot be understated.
It takes the combined effort of the patient, their support system, and the professional treatment from a personalized recovery program. Even after recovery, the treatment program remains in play to ensure healthy reintegration into society—and with minimal risk of relapse. In other words; take one step at a time.
The ORO House Experience – Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers in California
Oro house recovery centers stand in the gap and act as the bridge between dual diagnosis patients and wellness. In pioneering our Compassionate Care Model® for mental health and addiction dual diagnosis treatment, we are advocating for a new way to approach addiction and mental health treatment. Our facilities are geared towards dual diagnosis treatment, with levels of care ranging from detoxification and residential treatment to sober leaving and aftercare treatment.
For 10 years, we have helped restore dignity, a sense of belonging, and rekindle lost connections for our clients—going beyond the drug use to uncover the emotional triggers that lead to negative life choices. The treatment here is holistic and individualized. Every recovery journey is unique, calibrated to match the patient’s short and long-term needs.
This is reflected in our treatment programs, which are a healthy mixture of different evidence-based practices. They include everything from behavioral and cognitive therapies—to Mindfulness and Somatic experiences.
All this is facilitated by our most valuable resource…the staff. Our dual diagnosis health experts are more than highly qualified—with their professional accreditation well-complemented by an inherent approach of compassion and thoughtfulness.
With all this comes a beautiful backdrop. Oro House Recovery Centers is an award-winning inpatient and outpatient treatment facility with locations in southern California. As a testament to our exemplary dual diagnosis treatment, our luxurious recovery center was named winner of Newsweek’s ‘Best Addiction Treatment Centers’—placing #1 in Los Angeles and Malibu, and is a recipient of the Joint Commission’s prestigious ‘Gold Seal of Approval®.’ Only the best environment for your journey to wellness.
Reach out today, on behalf of yourself or for a loved one. As the old saying goes; the best time to start was yesterday, the next best time is now. Start your journey to recovery from dual diagnosis by calling (888) 595-0235 today.