A Dual Diagnosis occurs when a single patient is diagnosed with both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem. The combination possibilities are endless – alcoholism and depression, crystal meth addiction and anorexia, marijuana dependence and schizophrenia, heroin dependence and bipolar disorder – and as a result, there are millions of Americans living with this issue and struggling through each day without the treatment they need that will help them to heal.
According to the Office of Applied Sciences at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration (SAMHSA):
- About 17.5 million Americans over the age of 18, or eight percent of the population, were believed to be living with symptoms caused by a serious mental illness in the year prior to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by SAMHSA.
- An estimated four million of those 17.5 million people were also addicted to or regularly abusing drugs or alcohol. This means that about four million people in this country on average are living with a Dual Diagnosis.
- Another study published by SAMHSA suggested that the number of American living with a substance abuse disorder hovered around 24.6 million while about five million of them also had a co-occurring mental health disorder.
- Unfortunately, more than 50 percent of Americans living with a Dual Diagnosis did not get any treatment for either disorder.
- Only 34 percent of Americans diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder got mental health treatment alone, an estimated two percent received treatment for their addiction issues only, and 12 percent got the integrated Dual Diagnosis treatment that addresses both disorders and is necessary to make real progress.
If your loved one has long been living with mental health issues and is also fighting a substance abuse problem, the best option is a comprehensive Dual Diagnosis treatment program designed specifically to meet their personal needs in recovery. Contact us here at Michael’s House to learn more about our unique and effective program.
Dual Diagnosis Facts
- Patients who have a Dual Diagnosis are often referred to as having co-occurring disorders. “Comorbidity” is another term often used to describe the issue.
- Some of the most common mental health disorders diagnosed in combination with a substance abuse issue include anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and personality disorders, according to Medline Plus.
- Either the substance use disorder or the mental illness may come first. The development of one issue does not necessarily increase the risk of developing a co-occurring disorder, however.
- When mental health disorders occur first, the lack of treatment for the symptoms may drive some patients to attempt to self-medicate using alcohol and illicit substances.
- When drug abuse comes first, long-term use of addictive substances can lead to mental and emotional problems.
- The symptoms of one disorder will usually worsen the symptoms of the other.
- Treatment options often include medication, therapy, behavioral intervention, support groups, and long-term follow-up care.
Characteristics of a Dual Diagnosis Patient
There is no one set of characteristics that defines a patient with a Dual Diagnosis. Essentially, the diagnostic criteria are simple: The patient must have a chronic drug or alcohol abuse or addiction problem as well as exhibit a set of symptoms that classifies them for a mental health diagnosis as well.
However, studies have shown that the following is known about the Dual Diagnosis population in the United States:
- More than 38 percent of Dual Diagnosis patients are between the age of 18 and 25 years old while just over 17 percent of patients diagnosed with only a mental health disorder fall into this age group.
- About 7.2 percent of patients with co-occurring disorders are over the age of 50 as compared to 28 percent of patients who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder but no substance abuse issues.
- Men diagnosed with a mental health disorder were more likely to abuse drugs than their female counterparts.
- Approximately 67 percent of Dual Diagnosis patients were employed as compared to only 62 percent of patients who were only diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
According to statistics, the average Dual Diagnosis patient is between the ages of 25 and 50, male, and employed. However, there are no defining characteristics. Patients may be men, women or transgendered; employed, unemployed, or out of the work force due to disability or retirement; young or old; rich or poor; and living anywhere in the country.
However, the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) reports that the following populations are at an increased risk for the development of a Dual Diagnosis:
- Military veterans
- Those who come from a lower socioeconomic status
- Patients with general medical illnesses
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
It’s not easy to hide the signs of a Dual Diagnosis. When without treatment, patients are often unable to manage their symptoms, behave erratically, and experience relationships with others that are often turbulent or dysfunctional. If you believe that your loved one would benefit from a Dual Diagnosis treatment program, you are encouraged to help them find a program that can offer:
- Intensive diagnostic tests and evaluations at the start of the program to identify all issues
- Cutting-edge medical and psychiatric care
- Pharmacological interventions and monitoring
- Intensive and long-term therapeutic treatment through a wide range of different traditional, holistic, and alternative treatment options
Because the symptoms caused by drug use and the symptoms caused by a mental health disorder are exceedingly complicated, the treatment for both issues will be far more complex than the treatment for either disorder alone.
At Michael’s House, we offer a treatment program that is designed specifically for your loved one based on their symptoms, experiences, and goals for the future. Through long-term residential treatment, we make sure that your loved one has the time and support necessary to learn how to manage symptoms and live a healthy, balanced life.
The Need for Treatment
SAMHSA reports that there are a few changes on the treatment landscape that may suggest an increased need for Dual Diagnosis treatment, including:
- More treatment facilities are offering programs that cater to patients with co-occurring disorders. Over a six-year period, the number of programs offering Dual Diagnosis treatment programs rose by four percent. However, only 16 percent of substance abuse treatment centers in total offer the intensive mental health treatment that is required to provide effective care to Dual Diagnosis patients.
- In 1995, only 38 percent of patients admitted for treatment for co-occurring disorders were women. By 2001, that number had increased to 44 percent. This is significant when compared to the proportion of females entering programs for other substance-abuse related issues, which remained constant at about 30 percent during the same period.
- Alcohol was once the primary drug of abuse among patients diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder. However, in 1995, about 51 percent of Dual Diagnosis patients reported alcohol as their drug of choice, but by 2001, this number dropped to 45 percent, indicating an increase in the abuse of other substances.
- Opiates – heroin and prescription painkillers – were increasingly an issue for Dual Diagnosis patients between 1995 and 2001. The number of patients citing these drugs as their primary substances of abuse increased from 13 percent to 21 percent during that period.
- One study found that as many as a third of patients in college who were diagnosed with a mental health issue and a substance abuse problem were abusing prescription drugs.
Integrated Care, Positive Future
It is generally ineffective to attempt to treat one of the co-occurring disorders separately and then address the other issue. It was once considered protocol to treat a person’s substance abuse prior to addressing mental health issues in case the symptoms were driven by the use of drugs and alcohol. However, research determined that this was an ineffective method because patients would usually relapse when their mental health issues – often the original issues that they were trying to self-medicate – were still unmanaged and untreated.
Instead, Dual Diagnosis treatment that addresses both issues has been shown to be a far more effective choice. Patients receive the treatment they need for both disorders simultaneously, thus enabling their movement toward balance much more swiftly. Through long-term residential treatment that allows for intensive therapeutic intervention and the appropriate medical monitoring necessary to ensure that medication levels are correct, patients have the time and guidance to put into practice the new coping skills that they learn while building their confidence in themselves, rebuilding their relationships, and starting over without drugs or alcohol.
Contact Michael’s House Today
Whether or not your loved one has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you can make sure that they get the comprehensive treatment they need to recover from substance abuse and manage mental health symptoms. Our admissions coordinators are standing by at the phone number above to take your call. Contact us at today here at Michael’s House and learn more about how we can help your loved one and your family begin the healing process and get back on track.