What is Dual-Diagnosis Treatment?

illustration of multiple moods

Many addiction programs have adopted dual-diagnosis treatment for clients diagnosed with mental as well as addictive disorders. For the uninitiated, this type of medical terminology can be slightly confusing. In more pedestrian terms, dual-diagnosis is simply referencing a rehab program that is willing to offer an all-encompassing treatment approach to addictive disorders and treat any co-occurring mental health issues, as well. With modern medical advancements in addiction treatment methods and psychology, treatment facilities have a more nuanced understanding of addictive disorders and the mental health issues that often occur with them.


The majority of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD) also experience mental health issues that act as contributing factors, further exacerbating a person’s continued SUD. This is why addictive disorders can be so elusive when it comes to the long-term sustainability of addiction treatment methods. Addiction itself is a unique disorder differentiated from other illnesses by being both a psychological and biologically physical ailment. Treatment centers and medical professionals have found that if an addictive disorder is treated without addressing the underlying mental health issues, then the rate of success for long-term sobriety is significantly lower. Clinics that utilize dual-diagnosis treatment methods provide therapeutic modalities that tackle both the biological and psychological elements of an addictive disorder to provide a better outcome.


The Nature of Addiction and Mental Health Disorders


Initial studies in the early 1990s released in a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) titled The Evolving Field of Co-Occurring Disorders showed a clear link between addictive disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. Of the addiction treatment programs surveyed, the report cites an alarming 50 to 75% of patients who were receiving treatment for an addictive disorder were also diagnosed with at least one co-occurring mental disorder. Mental health clinicians reported that 20 to 50% of their patients suffered from some form of co-occurring substance use disorder. The connections between substance abuse and mental disorders are continually evolving through addiction recovery research. An intrinsic link between the two is evident, making dual-diagnosis treatment methods an integral part of any successful treatment program.


Continued abstinence from addictive substances is essential to the addiction recovery process. However, clients will find it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain abstinence through their mindset when treating SUD without addressing underlying mental health issues. Since a fair majority of substance misuse originates from individuals attempting to find ways of self-medicating, many will be continuously drawn back into unhealthy coping mechanisms and self-medicating if they fail to address co-occurring psychological disorders. 


Although debate persists about whether mental health issues or addictive disorders are the catalysts for substance misuse, dual-diagnosis treatment is a way for rehab centers to sidestep such an argument altogether by treating both the underlying psychological motivators and the biological component of addiction as a single, complicated illness. Once sober, those in recovery can begin to tackle the mental health disorders that act as a precursor and motivate further substance misuse.


Types of Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders


The shift in addiction recovery treatment methods to include mental health care dates back to the 1970s. As doctors began to notice commonalities in the diagnosis of individuals, therapeutic modalities addressing both addiction and mental health disorders were gradually incorporated by doctors with drastic improvements in patients’ rates of success for long-term recovery. 


Some examples of the mental health disorders that co-occur with addiction include, but are not limited, to the following:


  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Mood Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder


Benefits of Dual-Diagnosis Treatment


The benefits of dual-diagnosis treatment are far-reaching. This all-inclusive and extensive treatment method not only improves patients’ chances of abstinence once leaving rehab facilities, but the dual-diagnosis treatment also can significantly improve patients’ overall quality of life. By treating underlying mental health disorders, patients can better recognize triggers in their sober lives, allowing them to take the appropriate preventive measures to avoid potential relapse. 


Dual-diagnosis treatment also allows patients to come to terms with and resolve severe past trauma and re-occurring mental health issues that may have been left unresolved. Even for those few without co-occurring mental health disorders, clients are granted the opportunity through dual-diagnosis treatments to develop a more intimate relationship with the self, allowing them to better self-identify and recognize triggers in their everyday lives and maintain their sobriety.


Addictive disorders are unique illnesses in that they involve both a biological and psychological component. Treating the physical ailment without addressing the underlying psychological issues will often lead patients to be easily triggered after leaving a rehab facility and likely result in episodes of chronic relapse. Dual-diagnosis treatment methods utilize a variety of therapeutic modalities to ensure that both the psychological and physical components are addressed in addiction recovery patients. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, then Choice House has dual-diagnosis treatment methods that can help. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, we offer men the opportunity to achieve initial sobriety as they begin to learn the necessary skills to maintain that sobriety in the long term. Our treatment program includes a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, as well as the chance to take up residency at our sober living campus. For more information regarding Choice House facilities and treatment methods, please give us a call at (303) 578-4977

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