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Dual Diagnosis


A dual diagnosis is the co-existence of a mental illness and a substance use disorder. Psychoactive drugs and mental health disorders affect each other in a range of complex ways, with specialized treatment often needed to break the cycle of addiction and despair. Common dual diagnosis conditions include depression disorder and alcoholism, panic disorder and sedative abuse, drug-induced psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and opiate addiction. In fact, the dual diagnosis label is often criticized for being too broadly focused, with this single classification used to describe a wide range of complex interactions. Specialized dual diagnosis treatment is available in Idaho, with access to individual treatment programs largely dependent on the substance and extent of addiction.


Dual diagnosis challenges

There are many challenges to meet when it comes to dual diagnosis treatment, including correct diagnosis, appropriate treatment patterns, and aftercare support. Even before treatment is a consideration, people with a dual diagnosis face a number of challenges in modern American society, including higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of homelessness, social stigma, and higher rates of hospitalization. This situation is not helped by incorrect diagnosis and treatment plans, or is it helped by the historic separation between mental health clinics and drug treatment centers. Before diagnosing a dual diagnosis condition, doctors will attempt to differentiate between pre-existing mental problems and those brought about by substance abuse. This can be a difficult distinction to make, with the symptoms of drug addiction often mimicking the symptoms of mental illness and both conditions involved in a feedback pattern.


Treatment patterns

Even when a correct diagnosis has been made, patients often struggle to receive the treatment they need. There is a historic separation between mental health and addiction treatment facilities, with patients often juggled between treatment clinics without getting the integrated help they really need. There are four main ways to treat a dual diagnosis condition: primary treatment, sequential treatment, parallel treatment, and integrated treatment. While integrated treatment is often desired, patients often have to settle for other approaches. Primary treatment simply treats what is believed to be the main condition, with symptoms of the secondary disorder hopefully alleviated as a result. Sequential treatment also treats the secondary disorder, but only when the primary disorder has been carefully evaluated and stabilized. Parallel treatment deals with both disorders at the same time, with a second facility and doctor sometimes employed. Integrated treatment provides the most comprehensive solution, with no distinction made between disorders and a single treatment plan realized at a single treatment center.


Mental illness and addiction

There are multiple links existing between depression disorder and drug addiction, with causal links existing alongside complex bi-directional relationships. For example, people with depression often turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, with exposure to psychoactive substances then having a negative impact on their mental state. This relationship also goes the other way, with drug addicts often developing depression as a direct or indirect result of their addiction. Connections also exist between anxiety disorders and addiction, with anxiety patients sometimes developing an addiction to their psychiatric medication. Benzodiazepine drugs such as Valium and Klonopin are often prescribed for anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. These drugs are highly addictive, with a physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome experienced upon cessation of use. If you or anyone you know is living with a dual diagnosis, it’s important to get professional help as soon as you can.