For some people who struggle with substance use, addiction operates concurrently with one or more mental health conditions. While it is possible to treat both conditions separately, addiction and mental health professionals understand that mental illness and substance use often have noticeable impacts on one another.
Therefore, addiction specialists generally recommend people who have a dual diagnosis, a term that describes cases in which a mental health condition and addiction are both present, receive treatment for both conditions simultaneously. Dual diagnosis programs are most effective for patients who have both an addiction and a mental health condition because these programs address each condition individually while also considering how each condition may affect the overall treatment plan.
Understanding Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis is sometimes termed co-occurring disorders or comorbidity. Examples of mental health issues commonly found in patients who present with dual diagnoses include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, personality disorder, and depression. Along with the underlying mental health condition, these clients may also use alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs, marijuana, or virtually any other substance. There are several different types of treatments for dual diagnosis. Treatment varies according to each patient’s unique combination of mental health concerns and substance use habits.
Detecting Dual Diagnosis
The best way to truly determine whether you or a loved one has a dual diagnosis is to request an evaluation by a mental health or addiction specialist. However, there are preliminary signs that may indicate the presence of dual diagnosis. Symptoms of co-occurring disorders include:
• Sudden behavioral change
• Consistently retreating from family and friends
• Difficulty with daily task management
• Engaging in risky behaviors and activities
• Engaging in substance use in unsafe conditions
• Loss of control over substance use
• Developing an increased tolerance to one or more substances
• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from substance use
• Feeling a need to use the substance to function normally
How Many People Have a Dual Diagnosis?
If you or someone you know has co-occurring disorders, rest assured you are not alone. In 2017, approximately 7.7 million adults reportedly had dual diagnoses. While 38% of the 7.7 million people reported receiving treatment for either substance use or a mental health condition, only 9% of those with dual diagnoses received treatment for both conditions. Most mental health conditions that co-occur with substance use are:
• Borderline personality disorder
• Bipolar disorder
• Eating disorders
Advantages of Receiving Dual Diagnosis Treatment
In individuals who have dual diagnoses, treating only one of the co-occurring disorders is less effective than treating the same disorder in single diagnosis patients. Both conditions require comprehensive treatment in order to help dual diagnosis patients achieve the most favorable recovery outcomes. Dual diagnosis cases tend to be complex and require a more intensive program than receiving mental health treatment on its own. Patients who receive dual diagnosis treatment are generally able to:
• Receive treatment to effectively help them stop using drugs and alcohol
• Receive therapy to combat their mental health issue
• Work with professionals to better understand how the mental health condition and substance use are interconnected
• Address the root of the mental health condition and substance use
• Learn healthy coping mechanisms to effectively manage the mental health condition
• Identify and avoid relapse triggers
• Build a sound, effective relapse prevention plan
Sometimes, people who have mental health disorders self-medicate or use drugs to cope with mental illness symptoms. Self-medication can lead to addiction along with worsening the mental health condition. Self-medication also carries other risks, including:
• Delaying diagnosis of the underlying mental health disorder
• Amplifying the symptoms of mental illness when the individual abstains from using the substance
• Increasing tolerance to the substance and thereby fueling the desire to use larger quantities
Should You Receive Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
If you have been simultaneously diagnosed with a mental health condition and addiction, dual diagnosis treatment is right for you. The first step to finding the appropriate type of treatment is to contact an addiction center and inquire about programs for clients with dual diagnoses. Most treatment centers offer some variation of dual diagnosis treatment, or they can refer you to a center that offers a program that is a suitable option for your treatment needs.
Treatment programs can vary broadly. Therefore, it is best to ask thorough questions and to openly discuss your concerns with intake counselors when deciding whether a particular treatment center is right for you. If one treatment center does not appear to be the right fit, do not be discouraged. Contact other treatment center options, and you will eventually find one that offers programs that more closely match your treatment needs and personal, budget, and interests.
Types of Therapies for Dual Diagnosis Patients
Dual diagnosis clients often complete traditional recovery curricula like the well-known 12-step program. In addition, these clients may also receive more intensive treatments that target their co-occurring mental health conditions. Counselors provide additional therapy sessions and exercises that specifically address the mental health issue. Clinicians may also prescribe medications like antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and psychotropic medicine if necessary to treat the mental health condition.
Inpatient Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
Because clients who have co-occurring conditions often require very intensive therapy, treatment centers may recommend a residential inpatient program. Residential programs are full time. Clients reside at the treatment center, where they are better able to be monitored and supported.
Residing on-site allows clients to focus on their treatments and recoveries in a supportive setting away from the daily triggers that potentially exist in their everyday lives. While in residential treatment, clients follow a highly structured setting that provides stability and a sense of normalcy as they learn new habits. Depending on the program, residential treatment may last for a number of weeks to multiple months.
In some cases, clients have obligations that legitimately prevent them from enrolling in residential treatment. Parents who are unable to arrange childcare and people who are unable to take time off from their jobs may opt to participate in outpatient treatment. An addiction counselor may also recommend an outpatient program for a client who has a healthy, supportive home environment and who may benefit from remaining in a familiar setting throughout treatment.
Outpatient clients travel to the treatment center every day to receive various therapies and to participate in group and individual counseling sessions. At the end of the day, program participants return home to sleep. The following day, outpatient clients wake up early and return to the treatment center. Outpatient programs generally require daily drug testing to monitor compliance. Individuals who work a job while completing treatment may enroll in partial hospitalization or hybrid programs that allow them to travel to and from work during certain hours on designated days.
Affordable Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
Cost is often among addiction recovery patients’ top concerns prior to entering a treatment program. Fortunately, resources exist to provide treatment to virtually everyone who requests services. Treatment programs for people who have dual diagnoses range from free to very expensive. Government-sponsored programs and non-profit organizations offer access to treatment for clients who have low or no income. Individuals who have insurance coverage or who can afford to pay for treatment out of pocket may wish to consider private treatment programs that may offer additional amenities. High-end treatment programs often take place in very luxurious facilities located in remote settings.
If you have insurance, consult with your insurance company prior to enrolling in a program to determine which treatment facilities your insurer will cover. You should also ask your insurance company representative which services are covered by your policy as well as the amount of copayment you may be required to contribute. Treatment centers generally understand the complexities of working with an insurance company to cover drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and mental health treatment. Many treatment centers also offer payment plans to help clients who are unable to pay the full cost of treatment on their own or who may not readily have access to the amount of insurance payment needed.
Dual Diagnosis and Detox
For certain addictions, a treatment center may refer a client to a residential detox center prior to beginning a treatment program. People who have used drugs or alcohol for many years and those who have very severe addictions generally require medically supported, supervised detox. The withdrawal sometimes includes very dangerous symptoms. Physical pain, seizures, and mental and emotional distress are not uncommon when patients are addicted to certain drugs.
Moreover, dual diagnosis patients typically find that withdrawal may worsen the symptoms of the underlying mental health condition. At a residential detox center, staff members and clinicians are available to administer therapies that make the process safer and more comfortable. On-site staff members are also able to monitor dual diagnosis patients’ mental health as they proceed through the detox process.
NFA Behavioral Health
Nestled among the rolling hills of the scenic New Hampshire countryside, NFA Behavioral Health is a 20-bed, co-ed residential treatment facility in Canterbury. A secluded, 17-acre, wooded setting and a low staff-to-client ratio make NFA a favorable choice for clients who require a highly personalized treatment program with more intimate care.
Treatment programs include one-on-one therapy and group sessions. Clinicians and counselors employ traditional therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavior therapy, and grief and loss therapy. The center also provides treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions and addiction. In addition to benefiting from more traditional approaches to addiction treatment, clients may also participate in holistic therapies like meditation, yoga, and physical exercise to improve overall health and boost confidence. An on-site chef prepares nutritious meals for clients at NFA Behavioral Health. Clients may also participate in a variety of workshops, including a weekly off-site Family Recovery Workshop. Program social outings include mini-golf, bowling, and paintball.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Is a Phone Call Away
Your journey toward real, tangible, lasting recovery is just a phone call away. Call us to speak with one of our addiction specialists about our qualifications and program offerings for dual diagnosis patients. We will work with you carefully to help you select the program option that best meets your unique set of needs.
Our compassionate team is dedicated to providing every customer with the best care without regard to background or income level. We offer a variety of programs for clients from all walks of life. If you are calling on behalf of a loved one, our professionals are able to connect you with the proper resources to facilitate a productive conversation with your loved one about getting clean and sober once and for all. Call today, and learn how we can help!