Individuals with dual diagnosis are more common than most people think. Studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reveal that more than half of individuals who suffer from substance use disorders also have diagnosable mental illnesses. However, getting the right treatment can be challenging because the condition requires specialized medical and psychological care.

In most cases, medical professionals recommend a residential treatment to successfully handle it. When looking for a rehab facility, individuals need to ensure that they choose one equipped to support their recovery. They can opt to enter a treatment center nearest them or in Florida’s Gulf Coast area, where Tampa drug rehab facilities have psychiatric staff to help their patients with dual diagnosis.

The best way to deal with a complicated condition like the dual diagnosis is to gather as much information as an individual can.

Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis is a condition where an individual suffers from both substance abuse problems and mental illness. It is also known as a co-occurring disorder and comes in many forms. Since there are a number of mental health conditions and substance addiction disorders, the combination will also vary. This means that there are several possible diagnoses and treatments. Thus, each combination will need a different approach.

Another difficulty in the treatment of dual diagnosis comes from trouble identifying which condition is showing the symptoms. For example, if a dual diagnosis patient is showing signs of depression, medical professionals may not be able to pinpoint if it is related to a substance use disorder or a mental illness. The challenge here is that it is hard to exactly learn the root cause, which affects the treatment program and timeline.

Link of Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder

To effectively deal with dual diagnosis patients, one must understand the link between their mental health and substance abuse problems. There are still no exact reasons how the two affect each other, but experts have come up with some observations and theories.

Certain drugs may cause mental illness. Studies suggest that abusing specific drugs can lead to the development of certain mental conditions. For example, prolonged use of marijuana shows that it can cause psychosis while cocaine may cause depression in some individuals. One study published by the National Academy of Sciences also shows that using cocaine has damaging effects on the brain by flooding it with an excess of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that determines how we feel pleasure or satisfaction.

Individuals with mental illness are vulnerable to substance abuse. This belief comes from the concept of how individuals with undiagnosed mental illness may turn to self-medication to alleviate their negative feelings. Since they are not aware of the true state of their mental health, they don’t know how unsupervised medication can put their lives at risk. There is a reason why only licensed physicians can prescribe drugs as they have more knowledge of their effects and health risks.

Both conditions share similar risk factors. Experts connect mental illness with substance abuse due to some risk factors they share. One of these is that individuals who experienced physical or sexual abuse early in their lives may develop a mental condition or substance use disorder. Stress is another example, as it can be a primary factor in causing an individual to develop anxiety or depression and to depend on substances. Although other factors like family and personal histories are still considered in the diagnosis, the connection cannot be ignored.

Integrated Treatment Program

The best treatment for a patient with a dual diagnosis addresses both mental health and substance use problems. The only way to ensure its success is to have an integrated treatment program that treats all conditions. This means stopping all substance use, taking prescribed medications if needed, and participating in behavioral and alternative therapies.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is helpful in treating dual diagnosis patients, especially when it comes to discovering the underlying causes of their condition. The program consists of about 16 therapy sessions and can be in an individual or group setting. During sessions, patients unlearn preconceived notions about themselves that influenced their behavior and decision-making. For example, a patient who may not feel they are good enough will act unhealthily because of feelings of inadequacy and guilt.

To manage stress in a healthier way, treatment programs for dual diagnosis patients may include alternative therapies. These can be in the form of relaxation techniques to help treat anxiety and depression. Some of these techniques include breathing exercises, yoga, meditation exercises, and guided imagery. They help patients stay calm and maintain healthy blood pressure and heart rate. Generally, these are safe activities for most patients, but since their condition requires special care, they should be done under the supervision of trained instructors.

Since dual diagnosis patients undergo treatment for multiple issues, their recovery may also take longer compared to others. Proper care and a lot of patience are necessary to successfully treat both substance use disorder and mental illness. In line with this, patients need to be comfortable with the pace of the treatment program.

An aftercare plan is just as important as the appropriate treatment plan when managing the symptoms of an individual with a dual diagnosis. Once they have completed their rehab program, it doesn’t mean that their treatment will stop. It is actually the opposite because they are also prone to return to old, bad habits. The best way to prevent this is to continue their progress through support groups for emotional and social support.

Although dealing with dual diagnosis is complicated, treatment is always available. The first step is to get a formal medical evaluation to help determine the best course of treatment.


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