caregiver filling out form showing importance of dual diagnosis treatment

Importance of Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses are difficult enough to deal with on their own.  But sometimes they occur simultaneously. This condition is known as a “dual diagnosis disorder.” Coping with both conditions at the same time poses twice the level of difficulty and highlights the importance of dual diagnosis treatment.

The protocols for treating a dual diagnosis disorder, or a co-occurring disorder, have evolved over the past few decades. Previously, doctors believed that you treated substance abuse first, then the mental illness. Today, the consensus is you address both conditions at the same time. This typically produces better outcomes, more rapidly.

The importance of dual diagnosis treatment is high for people with mental illness and substance abuse. The complications struggling with both conditions can be substantial.

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

In considering the importance of dual diagnosis treatment, some definitions are in order. Dual diagnoses are possible in virtually any combination. You can suffer from anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or other mood or behavior disorder along with different types of addiction — drugs, alcohol, or gambling, for instance.

People suffering from one condition or the other are at high-risk of co-occurring disorders. By some estimates, half of the people with mood disorders will also have substance abuse problems — as well as the other way around, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

More than 9 million U.S. adults identified themselves as having a dual-diagnosis disorder in 2018, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness

Experts say that dual diagnosis conditions can occur in either order, starting with a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder first. The percentage of the adult population with dual-diagnosis disorders has grown gradually. As the number grows, so, too, does the importance of dual-diagnosis treatment.

Risk Factors and the Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It’s not entirely clear just yet what triggers a dual diagnosis disorder. While individually you’re at higher risk of substance abuse if you have mental illness, and vice versa, the condition can develop in either order. But doctors do know about some of the tendencies.

They include gender. For instance, men are more likely than women to fall victim to substance abuse and therefore more likely to suffer a co-occurring mental illness. On the flip side, women struggle with anxiety and depression at a higher rate than men and so may be more susceptible to substance abuse. Genetics can also play an important role in the progression of dual-diagnosis disorders.

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Loss of control over use of substances
  • Developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling like you need a drug to be able to function

Because various scenarios are possible, it’s critical to understand the importance of dual-diagnosis treatment. 

Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

As we’ve pointed out, the consensus on how best to address dual diagnosis orders has changed dramatically over the past several decades. The widespread view once was that doctors couldn’t treat mental illness before ending the substance abuse.

Today, we know more about the importance of dual diagnosis treatment, which requires an integrated approach. While the first step is normally detox or rehab, clinicians build treatment plans addressing a patient’s total needs, based on your own issues.

That means counseling and/or medication treatment will follow the rehab period, followed by a period of after-care.

Getting the Treatment You Need

Because of the importance of dual diagnosis treatment, if you’re experiencing mental illness and substance abuse, you should consider professional help. At Right Step Houston our counseling team is well-versed in all forms of substance abuse problems and the resulting complications.  We provide a full range of treatment programs and counseling to help put you on a path to sobriety. Our programs include medical drug detox programs, inpatient drug rehab centers, alcohol addiction treatment, aftercare programs, and others, including gender-specific treatment protocols. Call us today for a confidential consultation at 1.844.768.0169.

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