Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe a person who has a mental illness and a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. Dual diagnosis is also referred to as co-occurring disorders. The relationship between a mental illness and substance abuse is very complex. It is also more difficult to treat both of these problems together than either illness alone.
Studies have shown that one-third of people with a mental disorder have a substance abuse problem. Half of people whose mental disorder is severe also have a substance abuse problem. Additionally, 30 percent of alcoholics and half of drug users have a mental illness.
Is Mental Illness Correlated with Substance Abuse?
Each addict has his or her own unique situation when it comes to addiction and in many cases, dual diagnosis is often a common occurrence. This is evidenced by the following:
- People use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Many people who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental disorders do not receive the proper treatment. That is why they feel the need to use alcohol and/or drugs to lessen the pain. Drugs and alcohol may give a person temporary pleasure. However, they do not treat the underlying condition, and they often cause a person to feel worse.
- Drugs and alcohol can cause a person to experience the symptoms of a mental illness. Here is an example of such a scenario. After smoking marijuana, a 21 year-old starts to hear voices in her head telling her that she is in danger. This is a reaction to the marijuana. It can also be referred to as drug-induced psychosis. People who take drugs for long periods of time are more likely to suffer from drug-induced psychosis. Lethargy, social withdrawal, violent behavior and changes in emotion are some of the signs of drug-induced psychosis.
- Substance abuse has a tendency to worsen a mental illness. For example, a person with depression may begin to experience suicidal thoughts after drinking a large amount of alcohol. People may also notice that their symptoms worsen if they attempt to withdraw from the symptoms. A person withdrawing from heroin may begin to experience panic attacks.
Anyone diagnosed with these co-occurring disorders should seek treatment in a facility that is knowledgeable about the intricacies of this condition and can administer the proper level of care needed.
How Many People Actually Receive the Proper Treatment?
Most people with dual diagnosis do not get the proper treatment. In fact, studies have shown that only 12.5 percent of patients with this condition receive treatment for both of their problems. Many patients experience difficulty getting treatment. Some facilities exclude people who have co-occurring disorders.
What Are Some of the Dangers of Having Co-occurring Disorders?
Co-occurring disorders are dangerous. If the mental illness is not treated, then the substance abuse problem will continue to get worse. Likewise, the mental illness will most likely get worse if the substance abuse problem is not treated. A drug or alcohol overdose can also result in death. Furthermore, withdrawing from any type of drug can produce harmful side effects. In some cases, these side effects are life-threatening
Pay Attention to Common Symptoms
Depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety are the mental disorders that most commonly occur along with a substance abuse problem. Feeling of hopelessness, weight or appetite changes, anger, concentration problems, loss of energy, reckless behavior and strong feelings of guilt are some of the signs of depression.
Rage, hyperactivity, increased energy, decreased need for sleep and racing thoughts are some of the signs of bipolar disorder. Worry, heart palpitations, nausea concentration problems, headaches and muscle tension are some of the signs of an anxiety disorder.
Who is at Risk for Dual Diagnosis?
People who have a family history of co-occurring disorders are more likely to develop them. It is also important to note that certain groups of people are at a greater risk for developing co-occurring disorders. Studies have shown that co-occurring disorders are more common in men and people who have served time in the military. They are also more common in people who have general health problems.
Admitting That One Has a Problem
It is usually difficult for people to admit that they have a problem. They will insist that nothing is wrong. They may deny their substance abuse problem and mental illness. People will need to pay close attention to the symptoms that they are experiencing while they are sober. It is normal to experience some depression and anxiety after one has stopped drinking or using drugs. However, one may have a mental health problem if the symptoms still occur while he or she is sober.
People will also need to pay close attention to the effects that their feelings have on drug or alcohol use. For example, some people may feel the need to drink while they are depressed. Furthermore, people will need to look at their treatment history. In many cases, substance abuse treatment fails because people are having complications from their mental health problem.
Why Inpatient Rehab?
Inpatient rehab is the best option for people who are suffering from dual diagnosis. Treating people with co-occurring disorders can be quite challenging, but the professionals at an inpatient rehab facility are able to handle it. Inpatient rehab allows people to get help in an environment that is safe and healthy. Keep in mind that some patients are unable to recover from their disorder because of negative influences.
People in inpatient rehab will get professional care 24 hours per day, seven days a week in a secure and structured environment. Furthermore, inpatient rehab will give people the tools that they need to stay sober after they leave the facility. Inpatient rehab benefits a person psychologically, emotionally and physically, and in this way, can treat all aspects of a dual diagnosis.