Dual Diagnosis and Drug Rehab

Substance abuse can be caused by many things, but one of the biggest risk factors is a dual diagnosis (also known as a co-occurring disorder) of emotional or mental illness. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), more than half of people who abuse drugs also have at least one serious mental illness. The most common mental illnesses in co-occurring disorders are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia; however, other disorders that can commonly lead to substance abuse are depression, anxiety disorders and some personality disorders. Treating the substance abuse without treating the co-occurring disorder will almost always lead to failure (and vice versa), which is why dual diagnosis treatment in drug rehab is essential to recovery from both the addiction and the mental illness.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

A dual diagnosis of substance abuse and a psychiatric problem can easily be overlooked since the symptoms of one often mimic the symptoms of the other. For example, drug abuse symptoms such as paranoia, anxiety, depression, delusions, hallucinations and lack of personal hygiene can also be symptoms of a mental illness. Because the signs of drug use are so intertwined with the signs of mental illness, it can be very difficult to separate the two and identify how serious the substance abuse problem really is.

That’s where dual diagnosis and drug rehab steps in. People struggling with co-occurring disorders cannot fully recover from either disorder unless both are treated simultaneously. A drug rehab that offers dual diagnosis treatment can address the unique problems an individual with a co-occurring disorder has. In order to be effective, a comprehensive program will be tailored to the individual and will go beyond traditional therapy and medication to include:

* Assertive outreach: Environmental factors often present a challenge in treating dual co-occurring disorders. For example, many with a mental illness find themselves living in poor neighborhoods where drugs are easily accessible or take drugs that can interfere with prescribed medications used to treat their mental illness symptoms. Assertive outreach requires intensive case management so that the patient is consistently monitored through counseling, meeting at the patient’s house, and other methods of developing a dependable relationship with the patient.

* Social Support: Another challenge for treating dual diagnosis is the patient’s inability to develop positive social relationships. Many find that they are more accepted by groups whose main social activity is based on drug use, especially since an identity based on substance addiction is more acceptable than one based on mental illness. Providing social support in dual diagnosis treatment will help the patient strengthen positive relationships and get rid of negative influences in his or her life.

* Counseling: This fundamental part of any dual diagnosis treatment can be individual, group, family or a combination, and will help the patient develop positive coping, cognitive and behavioral skills.

* Money management: It’s hard for anyone with a severe substance abuse problem to manage money, let alone someone who has a mental illness. Many dual diagnosis treatment centers will also include money management skills to help the patient maintain their job, home and personal finances.

How to Choose a Dual Diagnosis Drug Rehab

A good program for dual diagnosis will provide treatment for a wide variety of issues, including: drug and alcohol use, behavioral addictions, codependency patterns, mental health, trauma issues, eating disorders, sexual addiction, family functioning, social relationships, physical health and fitness, diet and nutrition, vocational and education needs, and legal problems.

Without comprehensive treatment, a person suffering from dual diagnosis will inevitably continue the vicious cycle of self-medicating their mental illness symptoms through substance abuse. If you know someone who has dual diagnose symptoms, encourage them to seek treatment at a dual diagnosis drug rehab where they can be properly diagnosed and effectively treated.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.