How Do You Treat a Dual Diagnosis Involving Substance Abuse?

Dual Diagnosis and Substance AbuseWhy do some people use drugs and never become addicted? What makes a person choose to use drugs? These are questions that many addicts and their families have asked themselves repeatedly as they come to terms with an addiction. The answers are not clear, however, and depend on many factors. A dual diagnosis is one possibility. In order to know how to treat a dual diagnosis, one must understand what it involves.

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

According to the National Library of Medicine, a dual diagnosis is the coexistence of an alcohol or drug dependency or addiction with another type of mental illness. The mental illness may be any of the following:

? Depression

? Personality disorders

? Schizophrenia

? Anxiety disorders

Which Comes First? Mental Illness or Drug Abuse

An individual may turn to drugs for any number of reasons. In the case of a dual diagnosis, determining which health event came first — mental illness or addiction — can play a part in the treatment. Therefore, the treatment for an individual with a dual diagnosis (also be aware that there may be more than one mental disease at play) will vary depending upon the kind of affliction being dealt with.

For instance, an individual who begins using drugs for recreation may find his or her life deteriorating around them. They may overspend on their habit, costing them their quality of life or even their career. They may ultimately lose friends and family, causing them to question their worth. These events can lead to depression and anxiety, which will need to be treated with the addiction issues.

For another individual who suffers from anxiety disorders, depression or borderline personality disorder, the drug addiction may be the result of self-medicating to “treat” their undiagnosed mental illness. In this case, the treatments for addiction must address the underlying cause of the drug and alcohol abuse in order to increase the odds that the addict will not relapse.

Intensive Therapy Treatments

When an addict chooses recovery and enters an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, he will have access to intensive mental health counseling on a regular basis. This therapy is important to diagnose whether a dual diagnosis may exist. If it does, the recovering addict will then participate in counseling for both issues.


Our modern medical community has researched mental health issues extensively and medications have been developed to help individuals suffering from mental illness. Options other than dangerous self-medication with drugs and alcohol exist to provide those afflicted individuals with healthy, happy lives. Part of the recovery process may involve the prescription of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications or anti-psychotic medications that will normalize the minds and bodies of the mentally ill individual.

Mental Illness Is More Common Than You Might Think

There has long been a stigma associated with mental illness. Times are changing, however, as our modern society has learned how common such disorders truly are. For the recovering addict, it is much healthier and the prognosis is much better if a dual diagnosis mental illness is treated responsibly through counseling and medication under the care of a health professional.

Seeking treatment in a center than can offer help with dual diagnosis cases can give the recovering addict a much better chance of survival and continued, stable recovery than drug addiction counseling alone.