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Beyond Addiction:
Dual Diagnosis
Treatment Centers

Beyond Addiction:
Dual Diagnosis
Treatment Centers

Addiction does not occur in a vacuum. In many cases, patients who need addiction treatment are also suffering from other medical problems, such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. In order to address the addiction along with the co-occurring disorders, patients may get help from dual diagnosis treatment centers, where professionals have experience handling these complicated problems. This page discusses these treatments, outlining how dual diagnosis occurs, what disorders often co-occur with addiction, what types of therapies are used to help patients, and how people are evaluated when they enter a treatment facility.

Expert

Michael Castanon
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Addiction does not occur in a vacuum. In many cases, patients who need addiction treatment are also suffering from other medical problems, such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. In order to address the addiction along with the co-occurring disorders, patients may get help from dual diagnosis treatment centers, where professionals have experience handling these complicated problems. This page discusses these treatments, outlining how dual diagnosis occurs, what disorders often co-occur with addiction, what types of therapies are used to help patients, and how people are evaluated when they enter a treatment facility.

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What a Dual Diagnosis?

When patients enter a rehab facility, they are assessed by professionals in order to determine what type of treatment will best meet their needs. During this process, therapists will test patients for any illnesses they have in addition to their addictive disorder.

To perform a complete assessment that will inform recovery plans, therapists learn each patient’s medical, psychiatric, and family history. In addition, doctors find out patients’ personal history, including information on relationships, education, employment, and criminal background. After collecting extensive information, doctors diagnose any co-occurring conditions that the patient may be suffering from and tailor their treatment, including medical interventions and therapy, according to their specific problems.

Types of Diagnostic Evaluations Used in Rehab
Type Description
Behavioral assessments These tests are conducted by observing how patients act in the environment and respond to different situations, as well as other people. This kind of assessment may also include having patients keep a journal, so they can understand their own behavioral patterns.
Clinical interviews When a patient is admitted into dual diagnosis treatment centers, they undergo a clinical interview so doctors can understand what the person’s situation is.
Intellectual functioning tests These tests aren’t given to patients to measure their intelligence, but to get an understanding of their cognitive abilities and discover any brain abnormalities or damage patients may have.
Personality assessments Personality assessments help therapists determine if patients have a mental illness or personality disorder.
Common Condition Accompanying Addiction
    • Anorexia
    • Anxiety
    • Asthma
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Borderline personality disorder
    • Bulimia
    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Dysthymia
    • Heart disease
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Schizophrenia
Fast Facts About Dual Diagnosis Treatment

In 2014, 39.1 percent of people with a substance use disorder also had a co-occurring mental health disorder. (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Dual diagnoses may be caused when the brain system that is linked to a mental illness is also associated with the reward response to substance abuse. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)

In some cases, early exposure to drugs can change someone’s brain in such a way that causes them to develop a mental illness. (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

People with bipolar disorder are more than five times more likely to have a substance abuse disorder than those who don’t. (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Forty-seven percent of people with schizophrenia also have a substance abuse disorder. (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Types of Dual Diagnosis Treatment Facilities

In some cases, medical professionals frequently find co-occurring disorders in specific populations that have substance abuse problems. The following are some examples of these groups that may be particularly vulnerable.

Veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one-third of veterans getting treatment for addiction also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation reports that veterans with addiction may also struggle with problems such as depression, anxiety, HIV, schizophrenia, liver disease, and bipolar disorder.

Inmates. A study published in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal found that half of prison inmates and two-thirds of people detained in jail have an addiction problem. The researchers also found that those with mental health disorders are more likely to have a substance abuse disorder. In fact, 74 percent of inmates with mental health challenges have an addiction, and 60 percent of them admitted to abusing drugs within a month of their most recent arrest.

Homeless. Suffering from an addiction or a mental illness alone can make it difficult for some people to maintain stable housing. When combined, these disorders can make it even more challenging. According to the American Psychological Association, 10 to 20 percent of homeless people are dually diagnosed with addiction and mental health disorders.

Would You Benefit From a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center?

There are several reasons why people develop co-occurring drug addiction disorders and mental illness. In some cases, the mental illness comes first and the patient has developed a substance abuse problem to cope with the symptoms. Also, having a mental illness lowers people’s inhibitions, which can increase their exposure to, and experimentation with, drugs and alcohol. In other cases, people who have an addiction problem may develop a mental illness because of their prolonged substance abuse.

Signs of Co-existing Conditions
    • Changes in sleep patterns
    • Concentration problems
    • Erratic behavior
    • Feeling hopelessness and despair
    • Hallucinations
    • Flashbacks of abuse and trauma
    • Irrational fears
    • Low energy levels
    • Mood swings
    • Nightmares
    • Reckless behavior
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Sudden weight fluctuations
    • Withdrawal from interpersonal relationships
    • Frequent Nightmares
    • Changes in sleep patterns
    • Concentration problems
    • Erratic behavior
    • Feeling hopelessness and despair
    • Flashbacks of abuse and trauma
    • Frequent Nightmares
    • Hallucinations
    • Irrational fears
    • Low energy levels
    • Mood swings
    • Nightmares
    • Reckless behavior
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Sudden weight fluctuations
    • Withdrawal from interpersonal relationships

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Approaches

When patients begin dual diagnosis treatment, medical professionals assess them to determine the best therapy options for their needs. The following are some of the therapies that patients may be required to participate in during the treatment program.

Each dual diagnosis patient has specific needs, issues, and life experiences, so individual therapy is designed to address the challenges that person faces. During this process, patients discuss their traumatic experiences, as well as any feelings of suicidal ideation, grief, or guilt they may have. When patients go through individual psychotherapy, the counselor works to help them improve their self-esteem, control their anger, and increase their ability to cope with the stressful triggers they may experience. In addition, therapy is designed to help patients function better in interpersonal relationships.

People who have addiction disorders and mental illness often feel isolated, so group therapy can help them understand that others experience what they’re going through. In these sessions, patients discuss their struggles and form as sense of community as they learn together how to cope with their mental illness and adopt healthy behaviors that support a clean and sober lifestyle.

Cognitive behavioral therapy cuts to the heart of the destructive thoughts and beliefs that patients may have. People who have mental illness are often plagued by negative feelings and thoughts, which can contribute to their alcohol and drug abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients receiving dual diagnosis treatment understand these thought and emotional patterns and replace them with healthier habits.

People with mental illness often engage in self-harming behaviors, and dialectical behavior therapy is designed to address them. In order to facilitate this, counselors teach patients how to understand their negative thoughts and feelings without judging themselves.

Multisystemic therapy may be offered in dual diagnosis treatment facilities that cater to younger patients. During these programs, children and adolescents are taught how to deal with peer pressure, family problems, and a neighborhood culture that may encourage substance abuse. Also, counselors may help patients understand how antisocial behaviors and attitudes can be caused by mental illness—and how they contribute to drug and alcohol abuse.

Exposure therapy is provided to patients who have anxiety disorders like PTSD and phobias. In order to help desensitize them to the memories, traumatic events, or objects that contribute to their anxiety, they are exposed to these stimuli repeatedly. This allows patients to cope with the things that cause their anxiety, so the symptoms are reduced or alleviated.

Mental illness and addiction don’t just affect the people in a dual diagnosis treatment center. These issues are a family affair, so rehab centers may offer family therapy as part of their programs. During this therapy, counselors help mend family relationships by addressing problems in an open manner and suggesting ways each relative can help improve the interpersonal dynamic.

Patients who receive psychoeducation gain an understanding of the mechanics of their addiction and mental illness, which can go a long way toward helping them maintain their sobriety when the dual diagnosis treatment has concluded. During these classes, patients learn the symptoms of mental disorders, the impact that mental illness has on addiction, and how medication can help with alleviating the symptoms of disorders like depression and anxiety. Also, psychoeducation may address triggers of substance abuse and teach patients how to track their moods and cope with them in a healthy way.

Recovery: Life After Dual Diagnosis Treatment Facilities

In order for patients to successfully remain sober after completing dual diagnosis treatment, they are encouraged to participate in aftercare programs, such as support groups designed to help them cope with the problems they face in their regular environment. Also, patients should continue with therapy, which may be coupled with taking medications, to help them deal with their mental illness. In some cases, patients may check into sober living facilities, which are designed to help them get acclimated to normal life again in a controlled environment.

Q&A With a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Expert

About Michael Castanon
Michael Castanon is the Founder and CEO of Luminance. He is dedicated to helping people who suffer from addiction and mental health disorders by creating a treatment center with a mission of transforming lives and continually pursuing better solutions. Michael believes that a company filled with people that possess a strong passion and purpose can change the world for better. Luminance is a purpose first organization and this is reflected in all we do and is felt by all we touch. He has been a successful executive and business leader for over 20 years. His primary passion is to help others elevate and grow.

  • Q. What kind of health problems qualify patients to get dual diagnosis treatment when they get help for their addiction?

    If patients have mental health issues in addition to addiction, a dual diagnosis treatment solution is needed. This practice allows doctors and therapists to get to the root issues that cause or contribute to addiction. Many patients don’t realize that mental illness or clinical depression can cause them to have a predisposition to addiction. Typically, dual diagnosis is used when individuals face chronic depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, manic depression, general anxiety disorder, or any other mental health disorder.

  • Q. What is the process for screening patients for dual diagnosis treatment?

    To qualify for the dual diagnosis recovery program, you must first be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. A psychiatrist or qualified therapist at the dual diagnosis treatment center works with you individually to determine if you have a mental health disorder. Once this has been determined, a team of doctors and therapists will plan a customized program for your recovery and treatment.

  • Q. How does dual diagnosis impact the way addiction treatment is handled?

    If you are part of the dual diagnosis program, you will attend group therapy with others who are working through challenges similar to yours. You will also meet with various therapists, counselors, doctors and support staff daily to keep track of your mental health diagnosis and addiction and recovery progress. In the dual diagnosis program, your team of specialists will work on different subsets of your dual diagnosis, but will work in unison to track overall progress through both sides of the program.

  • Q. How much attention is given to the health problem not related to the addiction when patients enter rehab?

    The mental health problem is often related to the patient’s drug of choice. The core purpose of the dual diagnosis program is for patients to understand how their unique diagnosis relates to their drug of choice and how best to treat their addiction. It is essential to first understand the underlying mental health issues that each individual is facing and put a plan in place to treat. Once the mental health issues are uncovered, treatment for addiction can then be started.

    Are there cases when patients need to receive treatment outside of the rehab center before they can get help with their addiction?

    For us at Luminance Recovery, the answer is no. We ensure the individual fits the criteria for the dual diagnosis program and if they do, all the resources they need will be available to them at the Luminance Recovery treatment center.

  • Q. What kind of aftercare do dual diagnosis patients need to maintain their sobriety?

    Aftercare is a vital part of treatment, as dual diagnosis patients will face the challenges of their addiction and mental health disorder in everyday life. Each patient is unique, so each individual’s aftercare plan is personalized as well. The aftercare plan will address key goals of recovery and will seek to answer questions such as: Will I have a support system? Who will be my support group? How will my aftercare treatment work once I return home? Luminance Recovery gives each patient the tools to live a life free of addiction and help them face any challenges once they leave treatment.