A person with dual diagnosis has a mental disorder and a problem with alcohol or drugs. About half of people who have a mental disorder will also have substance use disorder at some point in their lives, and vice versa. Interactions of the two conditions can worsen both. The term Dual Diagnosis describes a situation in which a person has a developmental disability and a mental health problem.
A person with dual diagnoses, also known as co-occurring disorders, has both mental illness and substance abuse disorder. Either of these conditions can be made evident first. People with mental illness often resort to substances in an effort to self-medicate. Those who experiment with or misuse substances can worsen underlying mental illnesses.
Substance use can actually change the brain in ways that increase the risk of developing mental illness. Dual diagnosis refers to one or more diagnosed mental health problems occurring at the same time as problematic drug and alcohol use. Therefore, these people are supersensitive to the effects of certain substances, and people with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia may be less able to maintain moderate substance use over time without experiencing negative symptoms. People with mental illness use approximately 38% of all alcohol, 44% of all cocaine, and more than half of all opioid prescriptions in the United States.
Individuals with dual diagnosis have complex needs related to health, social, economic and emotional stressors or circumstances that can often be exacerbated by their substance abuse. Its purpose is to help professionals plan, organize and provide services to people with dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis, also called co-occurring disorder, dual disorder, or comorbidity, means that a person has a diagnosis of both substance use disorder and mental health disorder. This call for research is also needed to identify effective treatment approaches for other dual-diagnosed subgroups of the population, such as military personnel.
Mental health professionals should diagnose and treat these individuals appropriately and conveniently because of the potentially serious consequences associated with this disorder. While there is no standard dual-diagnostic intervention, mental health professionals can use best practices to individualize their treatment. Poor communication, poor information exchange, inflexible appointment times, and too strict entry criteria present obstacles for dual-diagnostic service users. In 2002, the Department of Health also commissioned the Research Unit of the Royal College of Psychiatrists to develop an information manual for professionals working in the field of dual diagnosis.
A substance use disorder is diagnosed when a person is unable to control their use of alcohol or legal or illegal drugs. Sometimes treatment may include helping families and caregivers adjust the support and expectations of the person with a dual diagnosis. It is not always possible to match the symptoms or behaviors of a dual-diagnosed person with a specific psychiatric disorder. In Victoria, as in other parts of the world, mental health services and alcohol and other drugs are working with an increasing number of people with dual diagnosis.
Because one disorder may mask or intensify the symptoms of the other, it is often difficult to determine which one occurred first and may make it more difficult to diagnose. .
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