Dual diagnosis refers to the co-occurrence of addiction and mental disorders; psychogenic problems often precipitate substance abuse, while dependency frequently leads to psychological aberrations. The relationship between the individual components of dual diagnosis is complex, which makes the condition more difficult to treat than if either disorder existed alone.
Dual diagnosis is the end product of three factors. First, untreated or partially treated mental problems can drive affected individuals to use addictive substances for self medication. Secondly, such usage, or the withdrawal symptoms associated with reduced or discontinued consumption, can worsen underlying mental problems. Lastly, drug and alcohol use can precipitate the onset of psychogenic disorders in previously normal individuals. Dual diagnosis makes it more difficult to attain lasting abstinence.
Affected individuals are more likely to neglect medication regimens, ignore treatment plans and skip doctor appointments. The condition can also magnify aggression, intensify suicidal tendencies and fuel deviant acts. Men are at a greater risk of developing the disorder, as are military veterans, the socioeconomically disadvantaged and those in poor health, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
One of the most prevalent forms of this disorder is the co-occurrence of eating disorders and addiction. Roughly 50 percent of individuals with pathological eating habits abuse alcohol and other addictive substances, a rate five times higher than that in the general population. To facilitate regurgitation and dehydration, sufferers abuse alcohol and over-the-counter medications such as laxatives, diet pills, weight loss supplements and diuretics. In addition, they may misuse prescription drugs such as thyroid medications, psychostimulants, tranquilizers, insulin and steroids. A variety of genes are thought to be involved in this form of cormorbidity.
Another prevalent form of dual diagnosis involves depression and substance abuse. Affected individuals are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression and other mood disorders. Mutually reinforcing, the two conditions share similar genetic, psychological and environmental triggers. Another type of dual diagnosis involves the co-occurrence of anxiety, another mood disorder, and dependency. The two conditions feed off each other in a manner similar to the mutually reinforcing coexistence of depression and addiction. Compared to the general population, individuals with this form of cormorbidity are twice or three times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol at some point in their lives, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Additional forms of dual diagnosis involve the co-occurrence of addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or the coexistence of dependency and the obsessive compulsive disorder. The depression and anxiety associated with these forms of cormorbidity can drive sufferers to self-medicate using drugs and other addictive substances. Certain drugs tend to be associated with particular types of addiction. For instance, alcohol misuse typically co-occurs with depression, while opiate addiction is often linked with OCD. Generally, addiction forms as sufferers of the two conditions use these drugs to alleviate mental distress.
There are several treatments for dual diagnosis. Of these, integrated intervention is the most prevalent. Varying by individual addict and specific cormorbidity, this approach combines substance abuse mitigation and mental illness treatments. The treatment process is typically preceded by detoxification. This is conducted by medical professionals in specialized facilities for several days.
Psychopharmacological medications may be utilized during and after detox to ease withdrawal symptoms and enhance recovery. Apart from drugs, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other forms of psychotherapy generally form an integral part of the treatment process. These focus on helping affected individuals pinpoint self-destructive beliefs and other underlying triggers of cormorbidity.
Smart Recovery, Narcotics Anonymous, Double Trouble in Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups are an important part of the post-treatment and recovery process. These self-help groups provide the social and other support necessary to maintain abstinence by allowing members to provide and receive encouragement, share tips and form friendships.
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