How Does a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center Work?

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

If you suffer from a mental health condition as well as alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, this is known as a dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is also known as a co-occurring disorder. Addiction treatment at a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center treats both SUD’s and Alcohol use disorders in co-occurrence with mental illnesses in comprehensive wellness programs.

Some people with co-occurring disorders first become addicted to drinks or drugs before a mental health condition is diagnosed. Others are first diagnosed with a mental health disorder and then go on to develop a substance abuse problem.

Now, regardless of which condition happens first, effective dual diagnosis treatment provides a tailored plan that tackles both disorders simultaneously. In most cases, this is best achieved through the structured and safe environment of inpatient rehab. That said, outpatient services can also be beneficial for some cases of dual diagnosis.

Residential rehab typically works so well for dual diagnosis due to the continuous care on hand. It’s commonplace for someone presenting for treatment to be distressed, and also often in poor health. With the double-edged sword of addiction and neglected mental health to unpack, inpatient treatment centers will have both addiction professionals and mental health in place.

Integrated treatment will help you to deal with your SUD and mental health condition head-on and simultaneously rather than trying to tackle them as two discrete issues.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Substance abuse and mental health are closely linked. According to the NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health), 45% of those with substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health disorder or behavioral disorder.

Research has yielded three potential mechanisms that explain the prevalence of co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis:

  • Self-medicating with substances: Those with mental health conditions often self-medicate with drink or drugs in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms. Someone with depression, for instance, may drink or smoke weed in order to feel happier. Despite its name, self-medicating in this manner does nothing to alleviate the symptoms long-term. Indeed, substance abuse typically inflames the symptoms of mental health conditions.
  • Overlapping risk profile: Substance use disorder and mental health conditions share common risk factors, from genetics to environmental factors.
  • Changes to the brain induced by substances: Sustained substance abuse can bring about changes in your brain structure. Changes occur in areas associated with mood, impulse control, and anxiety.

Many mental health conditions co-occur with substance abuse, including but not limited to:

  • PTSD: Those suffering from PTSD are four times more likely to also suffer from substance use disorder than those without PTSD.
  • Anxiety disorders: Almost one in five Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorders are closely associated with marijuana abuse. Social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are all linked to a heightened risk of co-occurring substance use disorders.
  • Personality disorders: Roughly 10% of the general population suffer from a personality disorder. This prevalence rate jumps to 35% and upwards in patients seeking treatment for addiction.
  • ADHD: ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) is associated with substance abuse at an earlier age, and also with an increased risk of polysubstance abuse (abusing more than one substance).
  • Mood disorders: 20% of all those with substance use disorder also have at least one mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Which Comes First, Substance Abuse or Mental Health Problems?

While substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders are very closely associated, one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other.

Abusing either meth or marijuana long-term can cause extended psychotic reactions. Alcohol, by contrast, is proven to exacerbate the symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

Those suffering from mental health conditions frequently self-medicate with drink or drugs in a vain attempt to soothe the symptoms. This is never effective in the long haul. Indeed, symptoms often become worse.

Abusing alcohol or drugs can heighten the underlying risk of developing a mental health disorder, too. Mental health conditions, like substance use disorders, are nuanced. With so many genetic and environmental risk factors underpinning them, it’s always difficult to pinpoint the role substance abuse plays.

Some evidence points toward heavy marijuana use increasing the risk of schizophrenia, while abusing opioid painkillers can raise the risk of depression.

If you abuse drink or drugs, this can increase the intensity of existing symptoms of mental health conditions. Also, new symptoms can manifest.

Alcohol and drugs interact with antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medications, making them much less effective and delaying your recovery.

How To Recognize Dual Diagnosis

Identifying dual diagnosis cane be challenging.  It often takes time to unpack what constitutes a mental health issue and where substance abuse is coming into play.

Confusing the issue further, the signs and symptoms will vary dramatically depending on the mental health condition as well as the type of substance being abused and the severity of the addiction. As an example, the signs of depression co-occurring with alcohol use disorder will look different to the signs of cocaine addiction and schizophrenia.

There are some common red flags that indicate you could be suffering from dual diagnosis:

Are you using alcohol or drugs to mask unpleasant thoughts and feelings or to regulate pain and mood?

Do you have a family history of mental health disorders or substance abuse?

Have you noticed any link between your mental health and substance abuse? Do you, for example, drink when you are depressed? Perhaps you get depressed after drinking.

Do you feel anxious, depressed, or out of kilter even when you’re sober?

Have you previously and unsuccessfully engaged with treatment for your mental health condition or substance use disorder?

What can dual diagnosis patients in California expect from treatment, then?

Integrated Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis treatment center should offer integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders. This simply means that you receive intensive care and intervention for both issues simultaneously.

You can also expect help and support services for housing and employment.

Comprehensive care begins with detox then continues through solid aftercare treatment and ongoing support. This will provide you with the best chance of recovering from dual diagnosis and moving forward with your life.

SAMHSA considers the integrated care model of treatment is best practice for treating co-occurring disorders. Integrated treatment increases retention and improves treatment outcomes.

Treatment will be highly personalized and includes any or all of the following:

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): You’ll explore the connection between your thoughts and your behaviors with CBT. By identifying your triggers and establishing superior coping mechanisms, you can learn to change problematic behaviors.
  • DBT (dialectical behavior therapy): DBT is a specific form of CBT used to treat BPD (borderline personality disorder) and other mental health conditions like depression. This is a collaborative psychotherapy intended to minimize substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal behavior.
  • Motivational enhancement: MET (motivational enhancement therapy) aims to induce quick and internally-motivated change to motivate you to stop abusing substances. This form of therapy does not guide you through a step-based system.
  • Contingency management: The healthy functioning of your brain’s reward system is impaired by substance abuse. With contingency management, small incentives are provided for healthy behaviors like staying sober.
  • Support groups: Some 12-step support groups like NA also offer services for those with co-occurring disorders.

Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment Covered by Insurance?

The Affordable Care Act ensures that treatment for both substance use disorders and mental health conditions is an essential health benefit. Most major insurance plans are required to offer coverage.

Insurance is unlikely to meet the costs of residential rehab, but there are many highly effective outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programs that are proven effective and typically covered by health insurance.

Renaissance Recovery: Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center California

Our dual diagnosis treatment program here at Renaissance Recovery gives you access to the mental healthcare and addiction professionals you need to overcome both these issues and reclaim your life.

We’ll tailor a treatment program according to the type and severity of your addiction so you can detox and kickstart your ongoing sobriety. At the same time, we’ll also personalize a treatment program to simultaneously address the specifics of the mental health condition that’s co-occurring.

Getting started is easy: just call the friendly Renaissance team at 866.330.9449.

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country