Dual Diagnosis: The Answer to Complete Relief


Drug and alcohol abuse comes with a number of consequences. In some cases, the consequences and even the addictions themselves may be compounded and exacerbated by other factors. Physical abuse, mental disorders, behavioral disorders, and other similar problems can all cause substantial issues, sometimes even encouraging the use of drugs and alcohol simply as a way to dull the other symptoms. In such a case, both the symptoms and the root causes must be treated to result in complete relief, and this treatment is known as dual diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis The Basics of Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a complicated matter because it involves two separate diagnoses. The term refers to treating both the symptoms and the root causes. However, the term dual diagnosis can sometimes be a misnomer. It’s possible for people to have multiple symptoms as well as multiple underlying causes. All of these must be identified and treated to make sure that the relief provided is as complete as possible. A total cure may not be possible, but some relief can often be obtained. Dual Diagnosis.org describes the process as a fusion of mental health care and substance abuse treatments that combines psychiatric care with clinical care.

The Tricky Reality

Most of the time, medical facilities, rehabilitation centers, and the like typically treat the primary symptoms, those symptoms that are obvious. Approximately 80 percent of their patients have to be treated for concurrent disorders that require dual diagnosis, even though most of them don’t know that they needed such treatment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that less than 12 percent of individuals who are in need of dual diagnosis treatment receive it, primarily because the problems are not recognized. The following information from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal additional insight into general statistics on such matters:

  • 50 percent of individuals who have severe mental disorders struggle with substance abuse
  • 37 percent of individuals who struggle with alcohol abuse have at least one serious form of mental illness
  • 53 percent of individuals who struggle with drug abuse have at least one serious form of mental illness
  • 29 percent of individuals who are diagnosed as mentally ill or mentally incompetent struggle with alcohol and drug abuse

The need for dual diagnosis has increased as awareness continues to grow, but frequently, getting that treatment requires a properly qualified medical center or rehabilitation center. “Important Statistics on Dual Diagnosis” reports that though more than 15 million Americans suffer from concurrent disorders, many tend to assume that they can handle the problems on their own. Oftentimes, family members and friends recognize the symptoms first. Their usual next step is to recommend drug rehabilitation or alcohol rehabilitation programs. Thus, family and friends also need to realize the importance of dual diagnosis to treat concurrent disorders and issues.

The Better Choice

Choosing to treat the symptom over the root or vice versa only lengthens the recovery process, if a recovery is even possible. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that each dual diagnosis requires a specifically developed treatment plan for the individual based on the roots of the problem as well as the symptoms. Since most recovery centers focus on treating the symptoms, the recovery is brief. NAMI reports that the majority of drug and alcohol abuse problems for such individuals stem from a form of self-medication. The drugs and the alcohol provide a form of relief, even though they also exacerbate the problems further.

In an effective recovery program, trained professionals must diagnose the various levels of issues. Objective and subjective tests are generally administered to provide a more thorough overview of the patient and provide insight into the situation. Sometimes multiple counseling and interview sessions are required to get a more complete insight into the problems and the challenges that the patient faces.  In some cases, such as those involving a severe alcohol or drug overdose, physical problems, such as arrhythmias, migraines, mineral deficiencies, and others, must be treated at the same time.

Often, these take priority in the initial stages as failure to treat the more severe problems can lead to death. Additional programs and treatment forms sometimes include stress management and self discovery components, including yoga, body image therapy, art therapy and self discovery sessions. In some cases, the treatment methods may be coordinated with multiple programs, or a single therapy may be administered at a time. The handling varies based on the individual.

The recovery times with a dual diagnosis treatment varies based on the individual patient. However, for those who begin following a treatment plan, it’s often possible for them to begin participating in regular life within a matter of months, depending on the severity of the case. Appropriate treatment generally results in an improved standard of living, and many individuals who engage in dual diagnosis are able to remain quite comparatively functional.

When dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, it is often wise to consider dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis considers more than just the symptoms, and it allows trained professionals to assist in a more complete treatment process. Treating the problem from the root rather than merely at the symptom level is essential. Otherwise, the treatments for the symptoms will generally fail, leaving the patient more frustrated, vulnerable and broken than before.

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