Dual diagnosis refers to an individual who has been diagnosed with substance abuse and a concurrent mental health issue. These two separate illnesses can interact and exacerbate each other, and if treated independently, relapse can occur.
Statistics reveal that 40% to 65% of people with substance abuse disorders also have at least one psychiatric disorder, and that 51% who have a psychiatric disorder also have at least one substance abuse disorder.
There is no particular cause of dual diagnosis, but contributing factors include family history, genetics, brain chemistry and environmental influences. This condition is often difficult to diagnose because alcohol and drugs can mask the mental illness aspect, or vice versa; therefore, proper treatment isn’t obtained. Unless both illnesses are treated simultaneously, recovery will not be successful.
Those who suffer with dual diagnosis can experience low self–esteem, guilt, shame, fear, frustration, depression, loneliness and hopelessness. Unable to deal with any problems that occur as a result of this disorder, they may become withdrawn and secretive or resort to crime. If they are sent to jail or prison, proper treatment isn’t available, so the pattern repeats.
Recovery from dual diagnosis is a process that begins when the individual realizes that there are two separate illnesses involved and takes an active role in seeking appropriate professional care. The most desirable results are obtained when an integrated method of treatment is utilized. Many elements work together to make this type of treatment successful, including:
- Treating both aspects of the disorder
- Education regarding the role alcohol or drugs play in their life
- Allowing the individual to help develop their own recovery goals
- Counseling designed specifically for dual disorders
Awareness and advocacy will reduce the stigma associated with dual diagnosis, which will lead to more effective treatment and recovery.