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21st Century Care: The Emergence of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Recovery Centers of America

Authored by Recovery Centers of America

Dual Diagnosis Is Part of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers


In the past, physicians viewed psychological disorders and addiction disorders as separate entities and subscribed to a theory of sequential treatment. Working this way, our patient would not receive treatment at a drug and alcohol treatment center for depression until they had gone through detox and rehab for their co-occurring alcohol abuse disorder.

Today, the new standard of care is dual diagnosis treatment. Professionals proved the older methods effective, as they often lead to higher rates of relapse. Because of this, the medical community was pressed into trying the opposite approach. They tried integrating addiction and mental health care in a meaningful way. Today, physicians have embraced the idea of treating substance abuse disorders and mental health issues concurrently to provide the most effective results.

New Methods of Treatment

In order to be considered for dual diagnosis treatment, our patient must meet the guidelines for having a mental health disorder as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association. This includes but is not limited to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. If we suspect such a disorder, we will give our patient a mental health evaluation. These a therapist or doctor should do this as soon as possible. They will reveal any red flags that require intense and individualized treatment.

For patients who have struggled with addiction, the psychiatric diagnosis may come as a relief. Mood swings and anxiety have a tendency to be magnified by drug abuse. For patients who have struggled with these untreated disorders for a long period of time, finally putting a name to their condition can give actually provide a renewed sense of hope. Explaining to patients the severity and prognosis  of their psychological condition is crucial. This way they can continue to evaluate their own well-being and reach out if and when they need help.

Signs of Dual Diagnosis

Self medication is one of the ways in which a dual diagnosis treatment plan becomes complicated. Often times patients with untreated mental health issues will turn to drugs or alcohol. An inebriating substance can be a distraction from a correct mental health diagnosis. Also, our patient may be abusing many substances, muddling the diagnosis yet again. This is a dangerous game to play. Patients who start out experimenting with substances for self-medication often end up suffering from terrible addiction as their tolerance and cravings increase.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers are also suffering from one or more serious mental illnesses.  The following are signs that our patient may have depression and require dual diagnosis treatment:

  • Thoughts of or actions towards suicide, or otherwise being overly preoccupied with death
  • Loss of interest in former hobbies and activities
  • Pessimism, sense of hopelessness, a feeling that life is “empty”
  • Abandoning friends and loved ones to be alone or to join a new social circle
  • Irritability, excessive energy or agitation
  • Extreme changes in appetite, lost or gained
  • Changes in sleep pattern such as hypersomnia or insomnia

Road to Recovery

There are many different combinations of disorders possible. Because of this, establishing a dual diagnosis treatment plan will be different for each unique patient. This is partially because the symptoms of depression and alcoholism have a lot of overlap. For example, and they can interfere and muddy the picture of what is truly going on. For these patients, having a dedicated addiction support team in a long-term inpatient rehabilitation setting is a very effective way of addressing the complex forces at play that have led them to instability.

Upon intake, it is crucial that any patient currently on psychiatric medications has the regiment scrutinized to reveal any possible over- or under-medication, among other issues. Drug and alcohol treatment centers with inpatient facilities are a terrific stage for this. They have a twenty-four hour monitoring. This gives doctors as much info as possible to make an informed decision on how to proceed.

In Conclusion

If you know of a patient currently being treated for substance abuse or mental illness alone, and you suspect they may need a dual diagnosis treatment center, it is important to contact a clinical team that can appropriately treat that patient. Help is available at 1-800-RECOVERY. Here you can get advice and information on such types of inclusive drug and alcohol treatment centers in your area.

You can also learn more from Lighthouse about what we have been doing to remain on the forefront of evidence-based addiction treatment. Our neighborhood model means that patients with dual diagnosis treatment needs will not need to travel extreme distances. Nor will they have to pay extravagant prices to get the proper level of care to regain a healthy and sober lifestyle. Contact us today with any questions.

Authored by

Recovery Centers of America

Recovery Centers of America



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