Dual Diagnosis is a mental health recovery treatment for people who suffer from a mental illness as well as a substance abuse problem. The approach looks at the two as separate but intertwined problems and determines how patients can work through both issues cohesively.
According to mental health physicians, a person with two different mental illnesses has co-occurring disorders. Research indicates very strongly that a person with co-occurring disorders must be treated for both problems and not just one or the other.
The Dual Diagnosis program seeks to treat both illnesses simultaneously through an assertive outreach approach that covers more than what a normal rehabilitative program would. Programs have been known to include areas focusing on:
- Job and housing assistance
- Family counseling
- Money and relationship management
Programs are usually personalized to help patients reaffirm positivity, hope, and optimism.
Facts about Dual Diagnosis Patients
- Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
- 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
- Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs.
The Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) found that individuals with severe mental disorders were at significant risk for developing a substance abuse problem during their lifetimes. They found that:
- 47 percent of individuals with schizophrenia also had a substance abuse disorder (more than four times as likely as the general population).
- 61 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder also had a substance abuse disorder (more than five times as likely as the general population).
Studies indicate that one contributing factor to Dual Diagnosis patients may be the “downward drift” tendency. This mean that individuals suffering from a mental illness have a hard time making it in the social world and sometimes find themselves living in the margins—in neighborhoods where drug use is prevalent. They may consider themselves more accepted by drug users, and they may find it easier to mask their mental illness in social situations where drugs are being used on a regular basis.
What This Means to Mental Health
There are many examples that show a connection between mental illness and drug abuse. So it is important not only to address both issues, but also to be aware that a patient with one runs the risk of developing the other. Although there is a great deal of research to support the need for Dual Diagnosis treatments, many mental health services don’t have these types of programs. As a result, patients often jump back and forth from substance abuse programs to mental health programs. Often, the patients do not improve because doctors are not viewing the problem as a whole.
Here are some key factors in effective treatment:
- Stages of accomplishment, starting with building trust
- Assertive outreach in multiple facets
- Motivational Interventions
- Counseling (family, social, group, individual, etc.)
- Social support
- Recovery as a long-term, community-based process
- Comprehensive care, including the real-life aspects of stress management, social networks, jobs, housing, and other issues
- Cultural sensitivity and competence
- Detoxification period
Lawnwood Regional Medical Center is proud to offer a Dual Diagnosis tract through our Treasure Coast Behavioral Healthcare Services. If you or someone you know shows signs of mental illness or substance abuse, please visit our Treasure Coast Behavioral Healthcare unit, or call 466-1500 for immediate crisis assistance.