If you or someone you love have sought treatment for addiction, it’s possible that you have heard the term “dual diagnosis” used.
What is dual diagnosis? First used in the 1980s, the term was created to describe people suffering from both severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders. In more recent times, the condition is referred to as “co-occurring disorders” or “COD.” Some of the more common disorders that are seen coupled with addiction are depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.
People often wonder which comes first – the mental illness or the substance abuse disorder?
While it can happen either way, it is more commonplace for the mental illness to plague a person first. Individuals suffering from these mental illnesses tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to relieve their symptoms. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), research shows that drugs and alcohol only make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse. An example of the mental illness being caused by substance abuse is an individual who has permanently changed their brain chemistry through extensive drug use, such as MDMA, and now suffers from severe depression.
Treatment for dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders has come a long way.
When it was first discovered in the eighties, individuals received treatment for either their mental health issue or their substance abuse issue. There were no integrated treatment plans. However, due to the very low success rate of these either/or treatments, the National Institute of Mental Health and several other institutes recommended the integration of treatment for mental health and substance-related disorders. Today, most treatment centers are very well-versed in the treatment of both mental illness and addiction and have programs designed to help these individuals recover concurrently.
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A Call for Standardized Definition of Dual Diagnosis. (n.d.). Retrieved January, 2017.
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Dual Diagnosis. (n.d.). Retrieved January, 2017.