A dual diagnosis occurs when someone has a mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD). Fortunately, a dual diagnosis treatment program can help. Addressing all co-occurring disorders at the same time leads to people getting the best possible results from their treatment program. Here’s what you should know.
Dual Diagnosis: A Common Problem
According to a 2022 national survey by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
- About 1 in 4 adults—or 59 million Americans—had “any mental illness (AMI) in the past year.” This refers to a “mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to meet criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition,” but excludes developmental disorders and substance use disorders.
- Roughly 15 million adults in the U.S. had a “serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year.” This means that a “mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities.”
The SAMHSA data also indicates that nearly 50 million Americans over age 12 had an SUD/AUD in the past year: “1 in 5 had a severe disorder, about 1 in 5 had a moderate disorder, and more than half had a mild disorder.”
The Cleveland Clinic reports that in 2020, approximately “17 million U.S. adults had a co-occurring mental health disorder and substance use disorder.” Additionally, “researchers have found 50 percent of people who experience a substance use disorder during their lives will also have a mental health disorder—and vice versa.”
Why is this? Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with different mental health conditions, often because they:
- Haven’t been properly diagnosed
- Have a heritable disease
- Experienced environmental mental health and addiction influences
- Haven’t been introduced to healthier illness management skills
- Suffered severe childhood trauma
Or even a combination of all the above. Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that “three main pathways can contribute to the comorbidity between substance use disorders and mental illnesses,” which we outline verbatim:
- Common risk factors can contribute to both mental illness and substance use and addiction.
- Mental illness may contribute to substance use and addiction.
- Substance use and addiction can contribute to the development of mental illness.
Types of Dual Diagnoses
Health care professionals, especially specialists in addiction science, know that certain mental health conditions have a high potential for co-occurring SUD and AUD. They include, but aren’t limited to:
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Different types of depression
- Eating disorders
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Now, it’s not a given that every person with a mental illness will develop SUD or AUD, or that someone with addiction has a mental health disorder. Plus, it’s not always easy to determine if an individual is struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse at the same time, as many symptoms overlap. In some cases, a person might already know they have a particular issue, while in many others, the additional diagnosis may be revealed over time.
However, comprehensive rehabilitation treatment evaluations are designed to spot the symptoms of co-occurring conditions so a more accurate diagnosis helps pinpoint the quality of care.
Treating Dual Diagnoses
It’s critical to address the primary disorder right away. For example, if someone is struggling with alcohol use disorder and depression, a care team might recommend detoxification first to help them stabilize physically and mentally from damaging chemicals. After a safe transition, a more accurate assessment of any other mental illness present is possible along with various therapeutic applications.
Keep in mind that it’s more complicated to diagnose someone who might be suffering the effects of various substances or who may present different mental illnesses. It’s imperative to find an accredited rehabilitation facility that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment so each piece of the wellness puzzle can be unlocked successfully.
Focused Dual Diagnosis Care at Great Oaks
If you or a loved one needs effective dual diagnosis treatment, Great Oaks Recovery Center outside of Houston, Texas can help. Our staff members are highly-trained professionals who specialize in drug and alcohol treatment along with dual diagnosis care. People in our programs benefit from the quality attention provided by a dedicated team of medical doctors, licensed and certified counselors, licensed social workers, nurses, and nursing assistants—all focused on your optimum health. Utilizing innovative methods to better understand and treat addiction and mental health, we’ve created a community of hope, help, and healing.