Many people who struggle with addiction also have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or compulsive behavior. When there are two separate conditions present in one patient like this, they are known as dual diagnosis cases as they have two concurrent health conditions that require treatment.

Sometimes addiction can be the result of mental health issues, particularly if someone has used alcohol or drugs to alleviate any distressing symptoms they experience. Conversely, symptoms of mental illness may be the result of prolonged drug or alcohol abuse. In both cases, it is crucial that both concurrent conditions are identified in the early stages of rehab in order for them to be treated separately and simultaneously.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) published some surprising stats on dual diagnosis patients who are suffering two disorders at the same time:

  • Nearly 9 million Americans who abuse alcohol or drugs have an underlying mental illness or concurrent disorder.
  • Of all adults attending rehab, just 7% receive specialist dual diagnosis treatment for both their addiction and mental illness.
  • More than 55% of dual diagnosis cases don’t get any form of treatment at all.

Living with addiction and mental illness that are concurrent is incredibly difficult and often it is the struggle that makes it easier for others to see the warning signs. An inability to hold down a job, maintain close relationships, manage responsibilities and concentrate on studies are often the most obvious signals that someone is facing challenges with their mental health.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse: What’s the Connection?

The relationship between addiction and mental health has been widely acknowledged as correlating for some time. The very distressing symptoms of most mental health disorders are very commonly relieved with tranquilizers, alcohol, and painkillers and often more illicit and dangerous drugs. Getting relief from mental illness is incredibly difficult for an individual to achieve on their own, which is why dual diagnosis addiction treatment centers offer the most effective route to recovery.

Conversely, addiction can create some states of mind that are not dissimilar to mental health conditions like depression and although an individual may not have any history of mental illness, prolonged abuse of drugs or alcohol may result in them developing long-term conditions. A dual diagnosis treatment facility, first of all, focuses on assessing each patient entering a program to establish exactly what, if any, mental health conditions may be present and underlying their addiction.

There are several factors that come into play in the relationship between mental health and addiction such as:

  • Heredity: Family history of mental illness may give some people a predisposition to develop mental health disorders themselves.
  • Brain development: If someone has been abusing drugs and alcohol from a young age, there is a chance their brains were still developing which will result in an increased chance of developing concurrent disorders in the future.
  • Stress or trauma: A traumatic event such as physical or sexual abuse, the loss of a parent or a painful divorce can trigger both mental illness and addiction.
  • Neurological factors: Both addiction and mental health are connected by their origins in the brain and in some cases; people can suffer from low levels of the transmitters affecting emotional stability which can lead to developing mood disorders and addictive behavior.

What Is Involved at a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center?

The components of a specialist program at a dual diagnosis treatment facility include:

  • Full and careful assessment of individual use history together with physical and psychiatric health for accurate diagnosis.
  • Individual psychotherapy created to address the individual symptoms a patient is experiencing with their concurrent disorders.
  • Education and counseling for both patients and their families to foster a better home environment when treatment has been completed.
  • Holistic and experiential therapies like yoga and equine-assisted therapy to support internal balance.
  • Individual and group therapy with other rehab patients facing similar challenges with dual diagnosis.

Ultimately, a specialist program at a dual diagnosis treatment center directs care towards the specific needs of each patient with concurrent mental health and addiction issues. Treatment is delivered for both conditions separately while at the same time for improved overall efficacy. Unraveling the complexities of addiction when it meets with mental illness is something that is more effectively achieved in a specialist facility.