Addiction, Treatment and Dual Diagnoses (or Co-Occurring Disorders)

group therapy for dual diagnosis

Skilled Counseling Really Makes a Difference

If you’ve been reading about drug and alcohol treatment options, you’ve probably got a lot of questions about what will make a program work for you. Every individual is unique and often a person entering treatment will wonder if we’re able to help meet their special needs.

You may be worried about co-occurring disorders, more commonly referred to as dual diagnoses such as:

  • Trauma or PTSD
  • Depression (or other mood related disorders)
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder

You might be wondering how these will fit in with you or your loved one’s treatment plan. You may worry that underneath the addiction, you or your loved one may have a mental illness that the drug use is somehow self-medicating.

We want you to know that recovery is possible – no matter what challenges you’re facing. Competent treatment centers are staffed with caring professionals trained to take an integrated approach to your treatment and recovery plan. Modern addiction research has shown that it is recommended that treatment address the “whole person,” including underlying disorders that complicate the process.  As such, it is always highly recommended that the treatment program:

  • is initially provided in an inpatient setting
  • last for at least 90 days

These two factors have shown to exponentially increase the likelihood of long term abstinence.  With ample time and a monitored environment, quality addiction treatment centers can help you create a foundation of recovery and arm you with the tools for coping with life’s stressors. This process can also address include addressing any mental health issues.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Treatment Approaches

Quality treatment programs will offer an integrated approach to your recovery, focusing on helping the whole person no matter what other issues you may face.

Long ago, treatment for addiction was kept separate from any mental health issues. Mental health issues were thought to be best left to the field of psychiatry alone.  Unfortunately, in the past, both drug treatment and psychiatry offered dramatically different therapeutic approaches. Many people struggling with substance abuse and mental illness fell through the cracks.

People with diagnosed mental illness often went without help for their substance abuse. In the addiction field, symptoms of mental illnesses such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder were often overlooked, leaving recovering addicts to struggle alone with the symptoms of undiagnosed mental illness. Because of these issues, many people with co-occurring disorders were more prone to relapse.

Research on Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are fairly common, according to research on addiction and recovery. In fact, in 2014, approximately 7.9 million adults in the United States were diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, according to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.1

Today, we recognize that addiction and mental illness can be co-occurring and complicate the recovery process. Research has shown that people with disorders like PTSD or anxiety often use substances to self-medicate.

Because of this, the treatment industry has made addressing co-occurring disorders an integral part of its treatment and recovery programs. There are many reputable residential centers where everyone can find the hope, strength and tools to survive and thrive in recovery.

An Integrated Approach to Recovery

Studies have shown that an integrated approach to recovery works2 .When recovering individuals are being shown the tools they need to live a healthy, drug-free life are also being cared for by a psychiatrist, then they are able to maximize their chances of long-term abstinence.

Through an integrated approach, clients should be taught tools and behaviors to help with some of the difficult aspects of their mental health disorders, such as social anxiety or depression. If necessary, an individual may take psychotherapeutic medications as a part of their treatment plan.

By treating mental health issues and addiction at the same time, clients with co-occurring disorders can learn to address their unique relapse triggers, such as anxiety attacks or mood swings.

In facilities that emphasize treatment for co-occurring disorders, staff members usually have specialized training and qualifications. They work to understand the challenges that each patient is facing to help them learn new, healthier coping behaviors.

What To Expect: Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery

When treatment for co-occurring disorders is included in the treatment for  an addiction, the treatment plan takes all aspects of the person’s medical history into consideration. This way patients can learn specific coping tools to manage the symptoms of their mental illness. Symptoms such as compulsive behavior or anxiety attacks will become less of an  obstacle to recovery.

Experiencing the symptoms of a mental illness without any of their preferred “drug of abuse” can be overwhelming for a person in early recovery to handle. That’s why you should ask very specific questions of any treatment provider to understand how comprehensive the treatment is. A supportive team and therapeutic environment will help prepare you for life in recovery and give you tools that will be instrumental to your success.

Many people with co-occurring disorders achieve long-term abstinence and learn new tools to thrive in recovery. If you’re seeking help for a co-occurring disorder, or you think you may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you’re in the right place. We’re here to help. Give us a call to learn more about your treatment options. It’s 100% confidential.

1.Behavioral Health Trends in the United States, available here.
2.Integrated Treatment of Substance Use and Psychiatric Disorders, available here.