Dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders, is a term used to describe a person who has both a mental illness and a problem with alcohol or drugs. It is estimated that around 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. A person with dual diagnosis may have either of these conditions evident first.
People with mental illness often resort to substances in an effort to self-medicate, while those who experiment with or misuse substances can worsen underlying mental illnesses. Substance use can even change the brain in ways that increase the risk of developing mental illness. Ashish Bhatt explains the importance of accurately diagnosing and treating patients with dual diagnosis. It is essential to address both the addiction and the mental health condition for successful treatment.
Sometimes, only the addiction is addressed while the mental health condition is not being treated. A substance use disorder is diagnosed when a person is unable to control their use of alcohol or legal or illegal drugs. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help the person learn new coping skills and change ineffective thinking patterns that could lead to a return to substance use. People with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia may be less able to maintain moderate substance use over time without experiencing negative symptoms.
In the case of dual diagnosis, an inpatient rehabilitation center can provide a structured and safe environment for treatment. Dual diagnosis is an evolving field, both in understanding causal relationships and in developing effective strategies for prevention, treatment and recovery. Mental health and alcohol and other drugs services must be able to respond to the needs of people with dual diagnosis. While there is no standard dual-diagnostic intervention, mental health professionals can use best practices to individualize their treatment. Recovery from dual diagnosis often begins with inpatient detoxification and substance use rehabilitation.
People diagnosed with co-occurring disorders often need more intensive treatment due to the complexity of their case, which emphasizes the importance of doctors providing effective and efficient treatment to these patients. Counselors can conduct group and individual therapy sessions, while residents can take advantage of any of the activities and services offered by the center. Telling personal stories of recovery can be one of the most effective ways to reduce stigma and help individuals and families facing challenges related to mental health conditions. A new approach is needed that allows physicians, researchers and managers to offer adequate evaluation and evidence-based treatments to patients with dual pathology, which cannot be adequately and efficiently managed by cross-referral between psychiatric and medical services. When it comes to dual diagnosis, it is important to understand that mental health and alcohol or drug related problems must be addressed together for successful treatment. Excessive marijuana use, for example, can lead to psychosis in some people; psychosis is a serious mental disorder that causes people to lose touch with reality.