Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex disease that affects the individual’s brain and behavior, which leads to uncontrolled use of a substance despite its harmful consequences. A mental illness refers to different mental health conditions that affect a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior. Given how each disorder negatively impacts someone’s life, it is troubling to have a loved one suffer from either one. How much more if they experience both at the same time?
If you think the chance of these disorders overlapping is one in a million, you are mistaken. Mental health disorders co-existing with SUDs are well-documented, and they are known as “dual diagnosis”, a separate class of conditions. They also happen more often than you believe. Read on to learn more.
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual Diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders, is a term used to describe a condition wherein a person suffers from a mental health illness and a substance use disorder at the same time. Although it may seem rare, the numbers suggest that mental illness and addiction often overlap.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.5 million adults in the United States suffered from co-occurring disorders in 2019, which was 1.4 million more than the cases in 2015. The same survey also showed that nearly 400,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had a co-occurring major depressive episode (MDE) and substance use disorder in 2018.
Why Does SUD Often Co-Occur With Other Mental Health Disorders?
While cases of SUD co-occurring with mental illnesses are common, it does not mean that one disorder caused the other, even if one condition appeared first. It is actually difficult to know which comes first or if one causes the other. Nonetheless, experts suggest three possible reasons why SUDs and mental illnesses occur together:
- SUD can contribute to the development of a mental health disorder – Abuse of certain substances can lead individuals to experience one or more symptoms of a mental illness. For instance, people who misuse cocaine, marijuana, and hallucinogens can increase the risk of psychosis.
- Mental illness can lead to substance misuse – People suffering from mental health issues tend to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or find temporary relief. A military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, can resort to heavy drinking to alleviate stress.
- SUDs and mental illnesses have common risk factors – Underlying brain conditions, genetic vulnerabilities, and exposure to trauma are some of the known factors that increase the risk of both disorders.
What Should You Know About Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
Treating SUD and mental health issues on their own is already a complicated and arduous process. When the two conditions overlap, treatment becomes even more complex and requires specialized attention.
If you want to learn more about dual diagnosis treatment, here are four essential things you should know:
1. Integrated Treatment Is The Best Approach
Say you are a Miami resident suffering from a dual diagnosis. You cannot afford to enter an ordinary addiction rehab facility if you want to recover successfully. Instead, it is best to look for safe Miami drug rehab centers that offer integrated treatment, a program that addresses both conditions simultaneously.
Integrated treatment is the most suitable approach for helping patients with co-occurring SUD and mental illnesses since it combines addiction services with mental health services. A multidisciplinary team of specialists will help you achieve long-term sobriety and assist you in your mental health issue.
Note that if you fail to receive concurrent and integrated care, recovery becomes more elusive. Think about it. When the treatment program focuses on one condition alone, only one disorder is managed while the other worsens. And since co-occurring conditions usually feed off each other, it is almost impossible to recover fully from one disorder in time to treat the other illness.
2. The Treatment Program Must Be Person-Specific
Apart from searching for a rehab facility that provides integrated treatment, you should also ensure that the program suits your unique needs and circumstances. Every person with a dual diagnosis has different challenges and requirements that need to be addressed. That means no single treatment plan will work for everyone. A reputable facility will assess your condition and create a program compatible with your situation.
3. Medications And Psychosocial Therapies Are Part Of Standard Care
Pharmacological interventions and psychological therapies are both used to address co-occurring disorders. Medications, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs, are useful in managing mental health disorders.
Psychosocial interventions, on the other hand, are useful in correcting unhealthy thinking patterns that usually trigger substance misuse. These therapeutic strategies also facilitate the learning of essential life skills and coping mechanisms that can help a recovering individual maintain long-term sobriety. The most common psychosocial therapies for a dual diagnosis include Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and Contingency Management.
4. People With Co-Occurring Conditions Benefit From Support Groups
Although family members provide incredible support, it is helpful to be in touch with individuals who are also working hard to overcome the same condition. Support groups allow persons in recovery to share problems, celebrate successes, exchange practical tips, and find lasting friendships to prevent loneliness and isolation. Double Trouble in Recovery (DTR), Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART Recovery are a few examples of these support groups.
Experiencing co-occurring disorders is nothing to be ashamed of as millions of people struggle with the same condition. However, it is disturbing to learn that very few people seek the right treatment to address the problem. If you suspect that you have a mental illness and you find yourself relying on drugs or alcohol for temporary relief, or if you notice that your substance misuse is producing symptoms of a mental health disorder, you must seek help from a reputable dual diagnosis treatment facility immediately. Note that early detection and treatment can significantly increase your chances of getting your life back on track as soon as possible.