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Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Everything You Need to Know

— February 7, 2022

Dealing with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders is not only challenging to the patient who suffers from them but also to the affected family members who need to take care of them.

Have you seen someone experiencing two different medical conditions at the same time? One is excessive substance abuse, and the other is a mental health disorder? This is called dual diagnosis disorder.  

Dual diagnosis is also known as a co-occurring disorder. It happens when someone is suffering from both substance (alcohol or drug) abuse disorder and severe mental condition at the same time. According to experts, five out of ten people with mental health problems have severe issues concerning substance addiction and vice versa. However, why do these problems occur? 

Co-occurring disorders are more likely to occur because there’s a deeper connection between the two conditions. Certain studies show that there’s a strong link between addiction and depression. When individuals suffer from depression, they experience extreme feelings of sadness and low energy. These factors lead them to use alcohol and drugs in order to deal with their negative emotions.

However, the issues arise when a depressed or mentally-unstable individual becomes overly reliant on such substances, affecting their lifestyle and relationship with others. Therefore, it’s important to learn how it is treated to prevent the occurrence of these cases and their symptoms.

How Do Experts Treat Co-Occurring Disorders?

Through the years, it was believed that treating co-occurring disorders could be accomplished by separating the treatment procedures for substance abuse and mental health issues. However, it was recently proven that this doesn’t solve the problem at all. In fact, it doesn’t even improve the condition of the patient. 

Also, the majority of individuals who received separate treatment for substance misuse never obtained additional therapy for their mental health issues. In addition, most of them state that because of the inadequate treatment, their degrading mental health was never detected at all.

Grayscale photo of man in backwards baseball cap vaping; image by Miguel Arcanjo Saddi, via
Grayscale photo of man in backwards baseball cap vaping; image by Miguel Arcanjo Saddi, via

According to experts, treatments for dual diagnosis are far more effective when medical professionals try to address both substance addiction and mental disorders at the same time. So, it’s important to consult your doctor immediately if your loved one is suffering from this condition. 

Also, experts show that incorporating substance addiction and psychiatric solutions effectively decreases the occurrence of psychiatric episodes and reduces incidents of suicide attempts. These have been observed by medical professionals as exhibited by patients under the rehabilitation program. This holistic treatment program is called Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment.

What is Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

According to experts, integrated treatment is the most effective and best way to address the issue of dual diagnosis. It manages both conditions at the same time, treating patients efficiently and successfully.

It starts by screening the patient to determine the severity of substance addiction and other possible mental health problems. Also, this treatment plan may provide and allow you to access additional support for your finances, housing needs, social aid, employment, etc. 

As mentioned above, integrated dual diagnosis treatment works by helping the patient receive intensive treatment for both substance abuse and psychiatric conditions at the same time. This helps them use the medications that treat mental problems properly without abusing them, worsening the symptoms, or increasing the thirst for alcohol or urges to get high. 

What are the Benefits of Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Many psychiatric and drug abuse institutions use the integrated treatment plan because of its effectiveness in treating patients with co-occurring disorders. Experts believe that this treatment model allows patients to become more engaged and connected throughout the process, unlike in other methods.

In addition, no treatment plan is created the same. It means that each integrated treatment plan is carefully designed to meet each individual’s needs and conditions. Also, experts say that patients who received this kind of treatment have experienced a drastic reduction of symptoms, increased independent living, and have lived healthier and happier lives. 

What Methods are Involved in an Integrated Treatment Plan?

The integrated treatment plan is usually done by incorporating multiple strategies to maintain abstinence from using substances and to manage some symptoms of mental conditions. 

These therapeutic methods include:

  • Participating in various support groups and creating mutual relationships with other people, especially with those who are also afflicted with the same illness as the patient.
  • Increasing the patient’s motivation levels to create satisfying and positive changes throughout the treatment process.
  • Implementing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which improves the behavioral patterns of the patient by going deeper into their beliefs and inner thoughts.
  • Creating a reward system or contingency management to provide incentives for patients who exhibit excellent behavioral patterns, such as keeping calm and avoiding suicidal attempts.
  • Implementing Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to address personality disorders and reduce the risks of negative behaviors, such as attempts to commit suicide, self-harm, and substance misuse.

Also, here are other strategies to make the following techniques presented above more effective, functional, and beneficial:

  • Receiving a proper detoxification process to make sure that even the smallest traces of alcohol and drugs in your body is removed. The doctor may prescribe medications to make it easier for you, and the medical staff is attentive to your needs 24/7. 
  • Implementing inpatient or residential treatment wherein the patient residing at the care facility goes through the treatment process. With this, medical professionals and other essential workers are present at all times to ensure that the patient’s needs, such as medication administration and symptom management, are met.
  • Implementing outpatient treatment wherein a patient who’s not residing at a treatment facility receives proper care. In this process, the patient may also receive the same treatment as those in the facility. However, the process is not as intensive as inpatient care. The patient has more freedom to perform school and work activities without any restrictions while receiving the treatment for dual diagnosis continuously.
  • Helping the patient’s family understand and accept the condition by educating them on the importance of the treatment, how they should provide support, and how the disorder should be addressed.
  • Applying for additional support after the intensive treatment to guide you on your healing journey and provide you with supplemental resources for counseling, support groups, and other recovery measures.

Final Words

Dealing with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders is not only challenging to the patient who suffers from them but also to the affected family members who need to take care of them. Most of the time, the main problem lies within the family. Without proper communication, these disorders may worsen, potentially leading to destructive behavior. 

Also, family members should not neglect getting the necessary support for their affected loved ones. This is crucial to the healing process of the patient. So, the best way to help is to ensure proper communication and extensive emotional support to someone you know or love. 

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