When a Dual Diagnosis is problematic, the symptoms of two separate disorders are in evidence. Mental health symptoms that indicate an untreated mental health disorder and substance abuse problem or addiction are generally the two co-occurring issues. But how can you tell if the mental health issues your loved one is experiencing are due to drug use alone or indicative of a separate mental health disorder?
Mental Health Symptoms Dominate
In many cases, patients will seek mental health care in a therapy session for acute issues they are experiencing, commonly:
- Relationship problems
- Chronic grief
During the initial evaluation process, the therapist will often ask about the patient’s use of alcohol and/or other drugs. Sometimes, it is immediately clear by the patient’s response that a Dual Diagnosis is an issue. For example, if a patient reports that drinking more than four to five drinks in an evening is a common occurrence or that they regularly smoke marijuana or abuse any other illicit substance, it is an indication of a Dual Diagnosis when these revelations are paired with reports of depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms.
The next step in most outpatient therapeutic settings is for the therapist to request that the patient stop all drug and alcohol use of any kind for any purpose. If the patient is suffering from a physical addiction, this should only be done with supervision from consulting physicians. If the patient is unable or unwilling to comply, then it is clear that a Dual Diagnosis is at issue.
Substance Abuse Issues Are Primary
When a patient enrolls in drug addiction treatment in order to get clean and sober, the intake process is extensive. Because it has been proven time and again that mental health symptoms can significantly impact the patient’s ability to learn how to function without drugs and alcohol during the detox process and beyond, substance abuse treatment professionals make a point of exploring the possibility of potential mental health issues early on. In order to pinpoint the specific diagnosis, patients may be administered evaluations and tests to better personalize Dual Diagnosis treatment.
The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment
When it is clear that there are both mental health issues and a substance abuse problem present, Dual Diagnosis treatment – or a treatment program equipped to effectively treat both disorders simultaneously – is an essential part of recovery. Without a treatment program personalized to address the specific obstacles in each patient’s life, it will be almost impossible to learn how to manage without relapse. Patients will need to be treated for issues including:
- Specific mental health treatment symptoms (e.g., anxiety, chronic fatigue, mood swings, anger, depression, disordered eating habits, etc.)
- Substance abuse
- Medical withdrawal symptoms
- Underlying trauma
- Relationship and family issues
- Co-occurring medical issues
The more extensive the treatment in addressing uncomfortable or painful issues that may drive substance abuse and encourage a deviation from focus on positive management of mental health symptoms, the more likely it is that the patient will be able to recognize triggers and make healthy choices that prioritize wellness.
Find a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program Today
For both mental health issues and drug addiction, it is important to begin treatment as soon as symptoms are recognized. If you believe that your loved one will benefit from care that is comprehensive in addressing all the issues that are problematic for them, contact us at the phone number above and speak to a counselor today.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton