What Is Dual Diagnosis and How Is It Treated?

The link between substance abuse and mental health was long suspected, but dual diagnosis wasn’t addressed until the 1980s.

So, what is dual diagnosis exactly? The term is still up for debate in the medical community. 

By definition, it’s a comorbid medical condition. Comorbidity refers to two (or multiple) conditions that coinside. In the case of dual diagnosis, the comorbid relationship includes substance abuse along with a particular mental health condition.

One example of dual diagnosis is alcoholism coupled with manic depression. Heroin abuse, coupled with schizophrenia, is another example.

Before the invention of dual diagnosis treatment, these conditions were treated separately. Therefore, dual diagnosis sufferers never got the treatment they sorely needed. However, there are medical professionals who believe the term is too broad for such a wide-spread problem. 

Learn more about the complexities of dual disorders and latest treatment for this condition.

What Is Dual Diagnosis, According to the Stats?

Let’s start with the data.

Statistics published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness show that more than 9 million Americans live with a dual diagnosis. That’s only the number of diagnosed cases. There are likely millions of more Americans who go undiagnosed.

Further stats show that roughly 45% of adult Americans who have a mental illness also struggle with a substance abuse problem. Therefore, nearly half of the U.S. adult population could potentially have a dual diagnosis disorder.

These numbers illustrate the sheer gravity of this problem. That’s why treatment has never been more critical.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Prior to the discovery of dual diagnosis disorder, professionals would treat substance abuse and mental illness individually. Everything changed in the 80s and 90s. Now, rehabs offer comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment.

These disorders exhibit several symptoms. Therefore, treatment takes a multifaceted approach in most cases. There are also different schools of thought on this topic, so you’ll find a variety of methods, including holistic, medical, and integrative solutions.

For example, one treatment program may administer wellness methods, like meditation and healthy eating. Another program may offer hypnotherapy or intensive group therapy. Some programs have psychologists and psychologists on hand to make medical recommendations.

Treatment programs may approach the issue differently. However, they’re on the same page about one thing. All patients must detox from drugs and alcohol before treatment can take place.

Patients who are still addicted to substances will need to undergo a complete detox beforehand. Detox is necessary, but it’s also a challenging process both physically and mentally.

Patients go through a stage called “withdrawal,” where they experience physical effects like night sweats, nausea, aches and pains, fatigue, and ravenous hunger. Individuals may also experience changes in body temperature, ranging from chills to hot flashes.

Find a Way Forward

Don’t underestimate the impact of dual diagnosis. If you or your loved ones are showing signs of a dual disorder, seek help as quickly as possible. There is a path forward. 

The first step toward treatment is acknowledging the problem. Your health is valuable. Keep up with the latest health news and tips for a healthier future.