If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you may have heard the term “dual diagnosis.” Dual diagnosis, or comorbidity refers to a person who suffers from both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 7.9 million American adults suffer from dual diagnosis and according to Stats Canada, an estimated 282,000 Canadians aged 15 to 64 have experienced both a mood/anxiety disorder and a substance use disorder.
Overall, treating addictions without treating the underlying mental health issues is not an effective way to address this complex problem. Instead, we must take a holistic and integrated approach that addresses both sides of the equation to truly help those who are struggling with addiction and other mental health challenges.
What Does Dual Diagnosis Look Like?
When a person is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it is not uncommon for them to also suffer from addiction. The best way to determine whether someone has a dual diagnosis is through a thorough assessment by a mental health professional.
It can look like:
· Depression and gambling addiction
· Attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and alcohol abuse
· Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and opioid addiction
· Attachment disorder and a sex addiction
· Schizophrenia and marijuana addiction
· Eating disorders and a cocaine addiction
How is Dual Diagnosis Best Treated?
In the past, treating a person’s substance abuse before resolving mental health problems was considered common procedure if the symptoms were triggered by drug and alcohol abuse. However, studies based on mental health statistics found that this approach was unsuccessful since patients tended to relapse while their mental health conditions – mostly the ones for which they were self-medicating – remained unmanaged and untreated.
The NIDA report notes that attempting to treat one of the co-occurring conditions individually and not addressing the other issue is usually unsuccessful. In addition, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) reports that clients have the best success when both problems are addressed at the same time, in a coordinated way.
Inpatient mental health treatment is often the best way to address dual diagnosis and can be crucial in helping the individual get back on track and maintain long-term sobriety.
Inpatient mental health treatment offers around-the-clock care in a safe and structured environment. For people suffering from dual diagnosis, this level of care is essential. Why? Because addiction is a disease that alters the brain. And when you’re in the throes of addiction, it’s difficult to think clearly or make good decisions. Inpatient treatment provides structure and support during the early stages of recovery when people are most vulnerable to relapse.
In addition to around-the-clock care, inpatient treatment also offers access to comprehensive services like individual counselling, group therapy, medication management, and more. This comprehensive approach is essential for treating dual diagnosis because it addresses both the addiction and the underlying mental health disorder.
In addition to comprehensive services, a specialized dual diagnosis treatment centre provides advanced, evidence-based therapies such as:
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) focuses on providing individuals with the skills necessary to manage painful emotions and establish healthy relationships.
Direct Neurofeedback, is a technique that directs extremely low-strength, unnoticeable electromagnetic currents into the brain. Research has shown that DNF can help with many mental health disorders like: anxiety, depression, PTSD/OSI, addiction, ADD/ADHD, chronic stress, autism, concussions and other brain injuries.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of mindfulness therapy that helps patients accept challenges they may face in life. ACT focuses on one’s behaviours and character traits with the aim of reducing avoidant coping styles.
Intensive-Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) focuses on releasing unconscious feelings, anxieties and defences that build up as a result of blocked and avoided complex emotions.
Finally, inpatient treatment provides an opportunity to build a support system with your peers. This peer support is essential for long-term recovery because it provides people with someone to lean on when things get tough. When you leave inpatient treatment, you’ll have a built-in support system to help you stay sober for the long haul.