Living with substance use disorder and mental illness can be really tough. If you or a loved one is in this situation, it’s normal to feel scared, exhausted, and unsure of how to continue. Fortunately, treatment is available to help people who have a mental health disorder and addiction or dependency. When both conditions are diagnosed, this is called a dual diagnosis.
The good news is that dual diagnoses are treatable and with the right support, any person can find recovery from co-occurring substance abuse and mental illness. However, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, especially in times of crisis. At Feinberg Consulting, we’re here to provide individualized dual-diagnosis interventions that take the weight off your shoulders and ensure you or your loved one can access the best treatment.
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
A dual diagnosis is when someone lives with both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a co-occurring mental illness. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, almost half of people with SUD have a dual diagnosis. If they are left untreated, co-occurring mental health issues can complicate the treatment process, preventing individuals from fully benefiting from the support and making relapse more likely.
Some of the most common co-occurring disorders include:
- generalized anxiety disorder
- panic disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- bipolar disorder
- attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- borderline personality disorder
- psychotic illness
- antisocial personality disorder
- eating disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
Data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that rates of co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders are particularly high. Serious mental illnesses are diagnosable disorders that cause severe impairments, substantially interfering with someone’s daily life. Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can all be serious mental illnesses (SMIs). Research shows that around one in four people with SMI also has a substance use disorder.
What Is the Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness?
The relationship between mental illness and substance abuse can be complex and multi-causal. There are several ways the two conditions can affect each other, and each individual has their own story.
Some people find themselves in a destructive cycle where mental health problems drive substance abuse, which in turn exacerbates or maintains a mental illness. However, effective dual-diagnosis treatment can reverse the cycle and promote holistic healing from both conditions.
How Do Mental Health Issues Drive Substance Abuse?
Some people with a dual diagnosis may turn to drug abuse as a coping mechanism for emotional distress. Substance abuse may provide immediate relief, helping them to relax or offering temporary escape. However, in the long-term, substance abuse does not help people to cope with or recover from mental illness, and in many cases makes symptoms worse.
Unaddressed co-occurring mental health disorders are also a main cause of relapse. If left untreated, symptoms of mental illness can cause someone to turn back to drug abuse even after years of abstinence. Dual-diagnosis patients need to develop alternative, healthy coping mechanisms for mental illness symptoms so they can stay away from drug abuse.
How Does Substance Abuse Affect Mental Health?
Substance abuse affects the balance of chemicals in our brains, both in the short and long term. Our brain chemicals help to regulate our bodies’ important functions, including mood, energy, motivation, appetite, and sleep. When these chemicals are unbalanced, symptoms of mental illness can worsen, and new ones may emerge. Research has found that, among dual-diagnosis patients living with schizophrenia and substance abuse, drug use can dramatically worsen the overall clinical course.
Substance misuse often also interferes with self-care. When people abuse drugs, they may neglect to eat and sleep well, take exercise, and take time to relax in healthy ways. Drug abuse can also lead to relationship difficulties, financial problems, and issues at work, increasing levels of stress and anxiety.
Common Risk Factors
Some evidence suggests that the high rates of mental illness and substance use disorders may be partly explained by common risk factors. Someone vulnerable to developing a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression may also be at greater risk of developing SUD.
Some common risk factors for mental illness and substance use disorders may include:
- certain genetic vulnerabilities
- exposure to early life adversity, such as childhood abuse or neglect
- social and economic conditions
- use of substances in adolescence
What Are Dual-Diagnosis Interventions?
Dual-diagnosis interventions are healthcare programs that treat substance abuse and co-occurring mental disorders simultaneously. Dual-diagnosis treatment aims to promote holistic healing and lasting recovery from both conditions. Individuals may receive treatment for both conditions at the same treatment center or from multiple providers.
At Feinberg Consulting, we understand the importance of dual-diagnosis treatment. If you think that you or your loved one may be living with a co-occurring disorder, come to us. We ensure an accurate diagnosis to pave the way for effective treatment. We utilize our extensive connections and expertise to determine a cohesive recovery solution that addresses each of our client’s multiple needs, staying by their side throughout their recovery journey.
How Do Dual-Diagnosis Interventions Promote Lasting Recovery?
Dual-diagnosis interventions treat co-occurring mental illness alongside substance abuse, addressing the root causes of addictive behavior. They promote holistic recovery for the entire person, helping dual-diagnosis patients to avoid emotional distress and other mental illness symptoms that can be triggers for substance abuse. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy also teach clients skills and strategies to cope with mental health symptoms if they do arise, reducing the risk of relapse.
At the same time, substance abuse recovery programs ensure that dual-diagnosis patients have the time and energy they need to fully benefit from mental health treatment. People living with addiction usually find that drug abuse becomes the priority in their life, preventing them from properly engaging in other tasks, including mental illness treatment. By addressing the two conditions simultaneously, dual-diagnosis treatment opens the door to long-term recovery from both.
What Do Dual-Diagnosis Interventions Involve?
Every individual is unique and responds to treatment differently. Effective recovery programs for both substance use disorders and mental illness should be individualized to suit each client’s needs. Recovery programs often combine a variety of treatment options that address the multiple needs of each individual, promoting long-term change.
Dual-diagnosis treatment usually involves treatment modalities specific to a single condition alongside modules that address the connections and relationships between the two.
Treatment for co-occurring disorders may include:
- talk therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy
- support groups
- family therapy
- complementary therapies such as yoga or meditation
- experiential therapies such as creative arts therapy
- medication-assisted treatment
- brain stimulation therapies
Substance abuse treatment often involves similar modalities but is tailored to address the causes of addictive behavior. It may also include some additional approaches, such as:
- relapse prevention therapy
- life skills development
- drug or alcohol detox
Inpatient and Outpatient Services
Dual-diagnosis interventions can involve both inpatient and outpatient treatment.
Inpatient substance abuse and mental health services involve residential stays at a treatment facility. They offer a safe and supportive environment away from the stresses and distractions of everyday life, helping clients to fully engage in their treatment. Inpatient services may be suitable for people with more severe mental illness and substance use disorders.
During outpatient programs, you continue to live at home while regularly attending a facility for treatment sessions. Outpatient treatment is suitable for dual-diagnosis patients who do not want to (or cannot) take a total break from their home and work responsibilities to attend treatment.
You do not have to stay in one level of care for the duration of treatment. Many people begin with more intense programs, such as inpatient or intensive outpatient services, before transitioning to a lower level of care. If you’re unsure what type of program you or a loved one requires, Feinberg Consulting can work with you to assess your needs and determine the right solution for you.
Recovery from chronic mental illness and substance use disorders requires long-term treatment, dedication, and support. Substance abuse treatment programs usually involve comprehensive aftercare plans that guide dual-diagnosis patients through early recovery and connect them with local resources. Recovery coaches can be an invaluable source of support as individuals rebuild their lives.
Dual-Diagnosis Interventions with Feinberg Consulting
Feinberg Consulting is a leading healthcare solutions company that guides individuals and their families through times of crisis. We understand how isolating and scary a mental illness crisis can be; we’re here to remind you that you’re not alone. Our team of expert professionals will take the weight off your shoulders, working with you to determine innovative and effective healthcare solutions to help the whole family recover and heal.
Our case management team includes dual-diagnosis specialists and other mental health professionals with expert knowledge of dual-diagnosis disorders, treatment, and recovery. We have established and trusted connections with mental health services across the country, helping us find the best treatment programs for you.
If you are facing a healthcare crisis, we’re here to help. As the leading experts on interventions and case management, you couldn’t be in better hands. Contact us today.