Those who suffer from a mental health illness may feel that there is no hope of overcoming their condition. They may be faced with daily consequences of this issue, such as the following: loneliness, fear, and damaged self-esteem. Unfortunately, this problem only becomes worse when a co-existing drug or alcohol addiction is involved. For those suffering from a Dual Diagnosis, integrated treatment is available to overcome these challenges.
What is a Dual Diagnosis?
A Dual Diagnosis, sometimes referred to as co-occurring disorders, happens when a person suffers from both a substance abuse problem and a mental illness. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 8.9 million American adults suffer from a Dual Diagnosis.
A Dual Diagnosis develops differently in each person. For some, a pre-existing mental illness like schizophrenia leads them to abuse substances and ultimately develop addiction in concurrence with their mental disorder. In these individuals, substance abuse typically begins as a coping mechanism for their illness. A mental health disorder like schizophrenia can be devastating not only to the suffering individual, but also to loved ones. In the challenge to cope with the illness, many with schizophrenia turn to drugs or alcohol.
Sometimes, addiction can develop from treatment of a single mental illness. For example, someone who suffers from treatment-resistant depression might be prescribed clonazepam for their depression. Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine that is only recommended to be used for a short period of time. When taken daily for over two weeks, the risk of addiction becomes greater. Because of this, those with treatment-resistant depression may develop a co-occurring clonazepam addiction.
In other cases, a mental health disorder might develop in response to drug or alcohol addiction. For example, someone who is addicted to drugs might develop depression in response to the effects of their addiction. Addiction can cause distressing consequences like poverty or low self-esteem. When such factors enter an addict’s life, there is an opportunity for mental health illnesses to develop. These commonly occur as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment
When a Dual Diagnosis is left undiagnosed or untreated, individuals are at risk of serious consequences. SAMHSA reports that as little as 7.4% of dually diagnosed individuals actually receive the treatment they need for both their substance abuse and mental health illness. More than half of those with a Dual Diagnosis do not receive any treatment at all.
Those without appropriate treatment have a higher possibility of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illness, suicide, and early death. Unfortunately, when these consequences begin to occur, both the substance abuse problem and mental health illness tends to grow increasingly worse. Drugs or alcohol are used to cope with homelessness, incarceration, and medical illnesses that have developed from the Dual Diagnosis. In the end, individuals suffering from untreated co-occurring disorders may attempt suicide or might die from physical health complications.
What is Integrated Treatment?
Integrated treatment provides a solution to the co-occurrence of mental health disorders and addiction. This form of treatment uses a holistic approach to treating the whole person, therefore allowing dually diagnosed individuals to overcome addiction and mental health illness at the same time. In most health care settings, professionals may not be trained to identify or work with co-occurring disorders. Integrated treatment involves specific training in order to best recognize this.
In an integrated treatment program, trained healthcare providers work to develop and enact interventions that treat both the mental health illness and the addiction. These interventions are bundled together, so neither diagnosis is treated more importantly than the other. Some of the commonly-offered services of integrated treatment include psychoeducational groups, individual counseling, group counseling and support groups. These services are similar to those found in a non-integrated treatment program. However, in an integrated program, these interventions and discussions will be tailored toward co-occurring disorders treatment.
The Benefits of Integrated Treatment
Integrated treatment has shown to be beneficial in many ways. According to SAMHSA, integrated treatment is associated with improved outcomes of reduced substance abuse, improved psychiatric symptoms, decreased hospitalization, increased housing stability, fewer arrests, and improved quality of life. These benefits occur because of the great success integrated treatment has on treating both existing disorders.
Cost of treatment has an incredible impact on the likelihood of dually diagnosed individuals seeking treatment. It is perhaps one of the most influential factors when choosing whether or not treatment is a possibility. Integrated treatment, however, reduces the cost of co-occurring disorders treatment by offering substance abuse and mental health treatment at the same time. This saves dually diagnosed individuals from attending two separate treatment programs, therefore saving money. It also saves them time, because only treating one condition may cause future relapses. Addressing both issues sets these individuals up for long-term success in recovery.
Get Help for a Dual Diagnosis
Drug and alcohol addiction is harmful to a person’s mental and physical health. This becomes especially true when a co-occurring mental health issue is involved. If you or someone you know has developed a Dual Diagnosis, call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about integrated treatment.
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