Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment Process

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that over 8.9 million people have dual problems. In other words, drug addiction is often accompanied by a mental disorder. The second condition may well be the driving force behind the drug abuse. Someone who is dealing with depression or anxiety may use drugs or alcohol to get relief from the sadness and build up a dependence that requires treatment. The dual diagnosis approach to addiction therapy provides intervention not only for the drug dependence but for the comorbid cause, as well.

What is Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is a fancy word for having more than one medical problem. A person can have heart disease and diabetes at the same time — they are both equally serious and potentially life-threatening. A doctor treating this patient is not going to treat only the heart disease and ignore diabetes. The goal is to find a treatment plan that works for both conditions.

People who have an addiction often have a secondary, or comorbid, condition that requires the same approach. If you treat one illness without treating the other, you fail to help the whole person.

Why is a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Effective?

The purpose of a dual diagnosis treatment is to manage two conditions simultaneously because they are symbiotic in nature — one condition relies on the other to exist. A person with clinical depression can get drug-free, but if the depression continues, he or she will look for drugs again to cope with it, because that is where they found relief before. Just like the doctor with a patient who has both heart disease and diabetes, addiction programs will try to find a dual solution to resolve both medical problems.

A dual diagnosis treatment is for the patient who exhibits signs of both addiction and other psychological disorder or disease. During the initial evaluation, addiction professionals will assess a person’s overall health. If a dual diagnosis is necessary, then the treatment plan changes to manage both conditions concurrently in order to lower the risk relapse.

What are the Signs of a Comorbid Condition?

It is not always apparent that a person with an addiction has a comorbid problem. The drug abuse may conceal the sign of a secondary mental illness. Addiction specialists are trained to look for symptoms that help them isolate mental illnesses.

 Lack of intimacy
 Mood swings
 Inability to hold a job
 Truancy
 Difficulty expressing thoughts
 Poor social skills or isolation
 Lack of financial control
 Violent tendencies and rage

The treatment starts with managing the physical problems that come with detoxing such as tremors or muscle cramps. Once past detox, the program shifts to treat the mental illness to alleviate the addiction.

With a proper diagnosis, the health care professionals develop a disease-specific care plan that includes:

 Pharmacotherapy, or drug therapy, to stabilize the mental problem, for example, an antidepressant
 Psychotherapy to overcome mental health issues
 Cognitive therapy to manage behavior problems that contribute to drug abuse
 Motivational Enhancement Therapy to provide rewards for meeting milestones

The aftercare provides continuing treatment of the mental illness while maintaining sobriety.

A dual diagnosis treatment provides hope for those with both a drug addiction and a mood or compulsive disorder by identifying and treating comorbid conditions. The added intervention reduces the risk of relapse for people who abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.