With advances in science and continued research, we as a society know more about the complex disease of addiction. We have come to understand that the roots of substance abuse are the result of a “perfect storm” of factors both in our environment and from within ourselves. Despite the advances that have been seen in the way we view and treat addiction, many addicts who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse still find significant barriers when it comes to finding treatment that will help them break the vicious cycle of addiction. One factor that looms large as a barrier is the stigma attached to addiction and how the addict view themselves in the world.

The Continuing Stigma of Addiction

group of friends in sobriety

The stigma that still arounds addiction is powerful, and because of it many addicts feel that the problems that caused their substance abuse is due to perceived weakness as a person. Additionally, there are a substantial percentage of addicts who may feel their addiction is a cause of a moral or spiritual failing. The truth is that the stigma surrounds the addict because of the fact that despite the advances in treatment, relapse is common. It is estimated that between 50 to 90 percent of those who go to treatment relapse at least once in the first four years of recovery. These high percentages of relapse can reinforce the belief that treatment by and large is ineffective and those who are addicted to substances are “a lost cause”.

Truth be told, there is some merit to the notion that treatment can be ineffective to a certain degree. A main reasons for relapse can be traced to ineffective treatment programming that doesn’t fully address all the addict’s needs, as well as a failure to fully prepare the addict to handle the stresses of their environment when they transition back to their daily life. However, there is a larger underlying issue that has contributed to these failures seen in treatment–and over the course of recent history treatment centers have began to address this particular issue. The issue is dual diagnosis, or what is commonly referred to as co-occurring disorders. With this sea change in thinking, addicts can start to move past thoughts that addiction is “their fault”.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

dual diagnosis treatment

Dual diagnosis is a term for when an individual experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem that are occurring together. Commonly known as co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis in itself is a very broad category. If someone is struggling with dual diagnosis, it can run the gamut from someone developing mild depression because of binge drinking to someone who may have a pre-existing bipolar condition becoming more severe when that person abuses substances.  With dual diagnosis, the substance abuse or mental illness can develop first.

For example, a person who is experiencing an underlying mental health issue may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the troubling mental health symptoms they experience. While the effects that substance give people may provide them a sense of relief, research shows that using drugs and alcohol will make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse over time. Additionally, abusing substances can also lead to mental health problems for those who may have not had an underlying condition because of the effects drugs have on their moods, thoughts and brain chemistry.

How Common is Dual Diagnosis?

It may be surprising to many people, but those who have substance abuse issues have a highly likelihood for also having an underlying mental disorder. In fact, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows some startling statistics on just how prevalent mental health issues and substance abuse intertwine:

  • Almost 9 million men and women who abuse drugs or alcohol have a mental health issue, also known as a co-occurring disorder or a Dual Diagnosis.
  • Out of all of the adults who go through addiction treatment, only about 7 percent are treated for both their substance abuse and their co-occurring disorder.
  • Over 55 percent of those who suffer from a co-occurring disorder get any help at all.
  • The rate of homelessness among people with co-occurring disorders is approximately 23 percent.

Whether it is a pre-existing condition or something that has not be diagnosed, having a co-occurring mental illness along with substance abuse causes further complications. makes it harder to hold down a job, develop and maintain personal relationships, get an education, raise children and build financial stability. Many adults who have schizophrenia, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder combined with substance abuse end up living in marginalized circumstances, without a reliable support system.

When people seek treatment for a substance abuse issue, they often display the signs and symptoms of the following mental disorders:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Anxiety and related disorders such as OCD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bulimia and other eating disorders
  • Attention deficit disorder

If You Have Dual Diagnosis, It Isn’t Your Fault

If you suffer from both an underlying mental disorder and are struggling with substance abuse, you need to understand that what you are experiencing is not the result of you being weak or inferior. What you are experiencing is the result of many factors coming together over a long period of time. While you may feel as though you are beyond help, treatment centers around the country realize the impact co-occurring disorders have on people’s lives and have developed effective treatment to give you the tools you need to move forward. A large part of the early treatment process is the comprehensive mental health evaluation that is performed by experienced staff during the medical detoxification process.

In the event that a dual diagnosis is discovered, staff will create an individualized treatment plans that focuses on those specific mental health issues. By providing the appropriate mental health interventions, those with dual diagnoses will have a much better chance at addressing the totality of their addiction. If you are in need of help, Ocean Breeze Recovery Center provides you the therapy, programming, medical treatment and mental health services you need to fully recover from the devastating effects of substance abuse. Call us today!

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