Dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders, involve the co-existence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Co-occurring conditions can be difficult to diagnose and treat, with complex relationships existing between disorders and widespread institutional problems regarding patient placement.
Co-occurring disorders require special treatment at a qualified rehab facility. To learn more about treatment options, call Arlington Drug Treatment Centers at (703) 463-2418.
There are a wide range of possible dual diagnosis scenarios, including depression disorders and alcoholism, anxiety disorders and prescription drug abuse, and bi-polar disorder and illicit drug use. Dual diagnosis is a broad term used to describe a wide range of inter-related conditions, with controversy surrounding the use of a single term to define a complex and heterogeneous group of people.
Before diagnosing and treating a patient with co-occurring disorders, doctors will attempt to differentiate between pre-existing disorders and substance induced disorders. While clear lines of causality do not always exist, it’s important for doctors to understand co-occurring conditions before starting medication and therapy treatment.
In many cases, complex bi-directional relationships exists between substance use and mental health disorders, with no clear primary condition able to be defined. For example, people with depression problems may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their mental illness, with ongoing substance use also influencing their depression problem. Both conditions feed off one another over time, with psychotherapy and counseling required to treat both disorders.
Multiple links have been found between depression disorders and alcoholism, with depressed people more likely to abuse alcohol and existing alcoholics more likely to develop depression disorders. The number of people seeking treatment for depression in the United States has doubled in the last 15 years, with alcoholism rates increasing in this demographic according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Depression affects one in four women and one in eight men in the United States, with people who self-medicate their condition with alcohol only likely to make things worse. Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant known to lower serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, with long-term drinking linked with increased depression rates in a number of studies.
PTSD is a debilitating mental illness that causes intense anxiety and intrusive memories, with common causes of PTSD including military combat, violent assault, sexual abuse, sexual assault and natural disasters. PTSD has been linked with increased rates of numerous substance use disorders, with people using drugs or alcohol as a way to escape and self-medicate their condition.
Over 50 percent of people with PTSD have a co-existing alcohol use disorder, with over 30 percent dependent on illicit or prescription drugs. Recovering from PTSD often requires specialized treatment with mental health professionals and addiction experts who understand the unique needs of PTSD patients.
Depending on the substance of abuse and extent of addiction, medication may be required along with behavioral therapy and relapse prevention programs.
There are many ways to treat co-occurring conditions, with some drug treatment and mental health facilities specializing in a particular approach.