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Why Dual Diagnosis is so Common

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Why Dual Diagnosis is so Common

Dual diagnosis is a treatment intervention for addiction that has emerged as one of the most critical components in addiction recovery. Studies show the misuse of drugs and alcohol, coupled with another psychiatric illness, is now recognized as a major driver for addictive patterns of behavior. The term “dual diagnosis”, which is also used interchangeably with co-occurring disorders, was coined to describe the presence of two or more primary conditions occurring concurrently with addiction.

Population surveys have identified high comorbidity rates in people with undiagnosed mental illness. Also, based on research outcomes, drug-induced neurological changes that causes uncontrollable cravings also drive obsessive seeking and compulsive use of drugs. In instances where there is a pre-existing mental condition, drug use can exacerbate the mental disorder.

In fact, an estimated nine million people in the United States are reportedly experiencing some form of comorbidity.  And, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at least 14% of these individuals will receive dual diagnosis treatment as part of their rehabilitation process.  The dual diagnosis behavior pattern varies between mood, anxiety and personality disorders in people that are actively using drugs.

Over the years, the incidence of people accessing addiction services while simultaneously demonstrating symptoms of a mental illness or seeking psychiatric care has continued to increase on an annual basis. Left untreated, these comorbidities are associated with increased risk of drug abuse, violence, suicide and addiction. As a result of these findings, the correlation between drug abuse and mental illness was been significant enough to drive multiple studies and the development of effective integrated treatment programs.

Dual diagnosis in recovery is a cohesive intervention process that work to identify and address the symptoms and effects of these comorbidities simultaneously. As a fairly new treatment model, dual diagnosis has already made significant inroads in enabling more people to stay clean and sober after rehab.  Studies show it has literally changed the fate of thousands of Americans whose untreated mental illness would trigger a relapse after a period of abstinence.  

The dual diagnosis care model is particularly important for people trying to stop habituated drug use that involves but is not limited to:

  1. A thorough physical and psychological assessment in order to make an accurate diagnosis of the substance abuse and mental status of the patient.
  2. Drug detoxification to stabilize physical and psychological symptoms.  
  3. Identification and administration of appropriate pharmacological interventions if necessary.
  4. Participation in various behavioral and motivational therapy.
  5. Individual therapy to address issues relative to the mental disorder.
  6. Periodic and ongoing evaluation to monitor or adjust treatment outcomes as needed
  7. Relapse prevention education and training.
  8. Aftercare planning to facilitate support for sobriety maintenance

Dual diagnosis treatment for high risk patients typically commence with inpatient care.  Addiction experts warn that sudden cessation of chronic drugs and alcohol in people with comorbidities can exacerbate anxiety and depression.  In fact, unsupervised drug withdrawal in people with unresolved mental illness is a primary cause of completed suicides. As such, dual diagnosis or integrated treatment has been shown to be the most effective method enabling sustainable sobriety.    

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