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Dual Diagnosis

Why do some individuals choose to use drugs? What element causes one person to become an alcoholic and someone else is able to drink in moderation? While genetics play a part in addiction, there is often another element such as an underlying psychological disorder or mental disease.

Drug Addiction Is a Mental Health Disorder

In order to fully understand the concept of a Dual Diagnosis, it must be fully understood that addiction is also a mental health disorder.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. The symptoms of addiction can be different for everyone, but typically addiction includes the inability to stop taking drugs despite harmful effects, and withdrawal symptoms when the drugs are not ingested.[1]


Dual Diagnoses Are Common Among Addicts

Research shows that those with an addiction are twice as likely to have co-existing psychological disorders as the general population. In addition, those who have mental illness are twice as likely to struggle with addiction issues.[2] The link between the two statistics is obvious.However, there is no clear evidence that one causes the other.

Drug Use Can Create Symptoms of Other Mental Health Issues

Many drugs have side effects that mimic psychological and mental health disorders. For instance, long-term marijuana use has a connection with an increase in psychosis. Long-term cocaine addiction can cause paranoia. These side effects may be permanent even after an individual stops drug use. As a result, they must be treated as co-existing conditions.

If only the drug addiction is treated, but the dual diagnosis is left untreated, the chances of an individual suffering relapse increase.

Undiagnosed Psychological Conditions May Contribute to Drug Abuse

Often when an individual suffers from a mental health issue, he or she may feel the need to “self-medicate.” This is especially true for those individuals who have an undiagnosed mental health condition. If the conditions have not been properly identified, those suffering from co-occurring disorders may not recognize that anything is wrong. They feel as though their feelings are “normal for them.” So, there is nothing that can be done about them. They may also believe that everyone feels as they do. If they are in a high-risk environment or see other people use drugs, drug use is seen as a way alleviate their sadness or anxiety. Drug use also feels like a normal and appropriate solution.

An individual who has been properly diagnosed may receive prescription medications for anxiety, stress or depression. When this occurs, there is a chance that he or she will misuse their prescriptions and develop a serious dependence on the drug. As the dependence increases, so does the body’s tolerance to the prescription drugs. This can easily lead to addiction.

How Is a Dual Diagnosis Discovered?

Proper evaluation is an important first step. At a quality treatment center, the recovering addict undergoes a series of psychological tests. This helps find the root of the addiction issue. These tests will help the treatment center staff develop a treatment program that might include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Alternative therapies
  • One-on-one therapy
  • Proper medication for underlying issues

Why Is Treatment Important?

Dual diagnosis treatment can be the difference short-term sobriety and long-term sobriety.

When caring medical professionals surround a recovering addict, the individual will feel safe, secure and loved. During treatment an individual is drug- and alcohol-free. The peaceful environment at The Canyon promotes healing.

When individuals leave the treatment center, they return to their prior environment. If a recovering addict suffers from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, he will become overwhelmed. He will likely begin to feel the same panic that he experienced previously. Because of this, the cycle of drug abuse can restart with a dual diagnosis situation.

However, if this individual is properly diagnosed with his anxiety disorder while in treatment, he can leave rehab with the proper prescription medication and education. In addition, psychological counseling teaches healthy ways to deal with addiction issues as well as mental health issues.

What Types of Mental Health Disorders Are Common?

Mental health disorders can range from mild to severe. Many of the disorders commonly seen in a Dual Diagnosis situation are related to stress, trauma or psychosis.

An individual may suffer from:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Extreme stress or anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anorexia or other eating disorders
  • Depression

The most common undiagnosed disorders are typically depression or anxiety.The symptoms of these disorders are difficult to notice. Many people are reluctant to seek help simply because they feel sad or nervous.

A Dual Diagnosis Can Affect Anyone

Drug abuse does not discriminate. Likewise, mental health and psychological disorders do not discriminate. A dual diagnosis condition can affect men or women of any race, age or religion. It can devastate the lives and families of the wealthy or the poor.

The availability of treatment may contribute to the frequency of co-occurring disorders in some populations and demographics. However, the condition itself can affect anyone.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that roughly 2.3 million Americans between the age of 18 and 64 years had a substance abuse issue in the year prior.[3] They also discovered that roughly 9.8 million workers have serious mental illness. If you or your loved one has an addiction and/or mental illness, know you’re not alone.

The best dual diagnosis treatment requires a comprehensive, team effort. The consulting clinical team, the treatment center staff and the afflicted individual must work together to achieve long-term sobriety. The great news is it is possible to properly diagnose and treat these conditions. If you struggle with addiction or may wonder if you an undiagnosed issue, please call our helpline now. The staff at The Canyon will provide you with the highest quality care. Call now so you can move forward and live a healthy life.

[1] Is Drug Addiction A Mental Illness?

[2] Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Disorders.

[3] Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.