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Dual Diagnosis

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a condition in which a patient experiences both a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. One disorder is often the root cause of the other, and the two conditions almost always exacerbate each other. If the substance abuse is treated in isolation without any attempt to diagnose and address the mental health disorder, the treatment will likely fail.

Substance abuse frequently follows an established mental health disorder as the patient attempts to self-medicate. This is especially true if the patient is not insured and does not have access to quality health care. The patient will need to persistently abuse the substance to get relief for their symptoms, causing them to quickly build a tolerance. The tolerance then causes them to need even greater amounts of the substance, which in turn significantly increases the risk of physical dependency and an addiction forming. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that 69% of all alcohol and 84% of all cocaine consumed in the United States, is by people with mental health disorders.

Likewise, substance abuse can also be the root cause of a mental health disorder. A number of addictive substances can cause hallucinations, outbursts of aggression or violence, paranoia and delirium. These substances include alcohol and methamphetamine. Long-term abuse of heroin and other opiate drugs, can also physically damage the brain, with a major impact on the areas that control reasoning and moderation of behavior.


Types of Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse Pairings

  • Eating Disorders: According to the National Eating Disorders Association, almost 50% of people with an eating disorder, also abuse drugs or alcohol. This rate is five times greater than the rate of substance abuse among the entire population. Alcohol is the substance most commonly abused, usually to induce vomiting and allow the addict to eat more. Other commonly abused drugs with eating disorders, include all types of prescription medication and over-the-counter weight loss supplements.
  • Depression: Depression is the mental health disorder that is most commonly paired with a substance abuse issue. Alcohol, and nearly all illicit substances, can cause or contribute to depression when they are abused. About 20% of people with depression abuse substances, and vice versa, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety is a close second to depression in being commonly paired with a substance abuse disorder. Those suffering from some form of anxiety, usually abuse alcohol in an attempt to quell their symptoms, but alcohol can actually make them worse. The abuse of prescription opiates and sedatives to lessen the anxiety symptoms, is also common.
  • PTSD: As with anxiety, those suffering from PTSD tend to use substances to self-medicate and suppress their troubling symptoms. Alcohol and illicit depressants are most commonly used in this situation. This dual diagnosis is most common in military veterans; 20% of veterans with PTSD also have some form of substance abuse disorder, and about 10% of all veterans who return from war zones come back with some form of substance abuse disorder.
  • OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, but a particularly intrusive one in which the person suffering from it does not have complete control over their actions. OCD patients are usually aware that the “rituals” they feel compelled to engage in are irrational, but they cannot help it. Given this, they are at increased risk for developing a substance abuse issue in an attempt to control these symptoms.


Treatments for Dual Diagnosis Cases

Those who believe they are suffering from both a mental health issue and a substance abuse disorder, should seek out a treatment center that specializes in dual diagnosis cases. Reach out to qualified addiction treatment centers in Nebraska today for further information about the options of help available.