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It’s hard to watch someone you care about struggle with addiction. Their condition can even get worse if they also have a mental health condition. Having either one of these problems is difficult enough. It’s easy to see how a person with both conditions can get overwhelmed by their situation.

Either their mental condition is fueling their need to drink and take drugs, or their substance abuse is causing their existing mental health problems. It could also be that they just happen to have both. In any case, this could create an unhealthy cycle that could be extremely difficult to break. The person may feel hopeless as they go into a downward spiral.

What they need is help from a proper treatment center.

Luckily, there are treatment programs that specialize in these conditions, specifically those with dual diagnosis. Treatment programs for dual diagnosis exist, and they are specifically designed to address these complex conditions.

Here we are going to discuss what happens when a person has to deal with drug addiction or alcohol addiction, and mental health disorders at the same time. We will also tackle treatment for dual diagnosis: how it works and what to expect when treating co-occurring disorders.

TRUST SoCal, for example, is one of the best dual diagnosis treatment centers out there. They can help patients who are struggling with a substance abuse problem and co-occurring mental health disorders. Let’s take a closer look.


What is a Dual Diagnosis?

Before we can explore how addiction treatment works for dual diagnosis, we first have to discuss what it is. Knowing this will help you make an informed decision when choosing a dual diagnosis rehab center.

A dual diagnosis is when a person has a substance abuse disorder and co-occurring mental health disorders. Mental health disorders that usually co-occur with substance abuse disorder include: generalized anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, and dissociative identity disorder.

Dual diagnosis is actually more common than you may think. This is because mental health and addiction have a complex relationship that is worth exploring. About half of all people suffering from mental health disorders will develop a substance abuse problem later in life. This is not a guarantee. But they are at greater risk of becoming addicted, especially if they experiment with drugs or alcohol.

Dealing with an addiction is difficult. But people with a dual diagnosis have to deal with the effects of their mental health disorder on top of that.

A dual diagnosis rehab is equipped to handle this complicated condition. Dual diagnosis treatment centers understand the importance of addressing both problems at the same time. You can’t tackle addiction and simply provide addiction treatment without addressing the co-occurring mental health disorder, and vice-versa.

Dual diagnosis rehab comes in many different forms. They offer a wide range of mental health services that complement their addiction treatment programs.

Treatment for Mental Illness: How Does it Work?

Both a mental illness and an addiction can make life much harder for a person. But before we get into dual diagnosis rehab, let’s talk about how treatment usually works for mental illness alone. Oftentimes, a complete treatment program is needed for someone with a mental health disorder.

There are plenty of programs geared towards people who have mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. These programs will use psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Examples of psychotherapy include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and exposure therapy.

There are individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, and even family therapy—all of which have their distinct set of benefits.

Individual therapy allows the counselor or therapist to do a deep dive into the patient’s condition and situation, helping them understand their underlying mental health issues. Group therapy offers emotional support from people who understand what the patient is going through. It builds a sense of belongingness and comfort, reassuring them that they are not going through this alone.

A trained counselor can also help the patient recognize unhealthy behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and patterns. The goal is to improve their general well-being. Sometimes medications are administered to help keep symptoms under control and to promote a safer recovery. After all, it can be incredibly difficult to function on a day to day basis while dealing with the effects of mental health disorders.

Medications help make them feel “normal” so they can focus on therapy. With fewer symptoms to worry about, patients can put more energy into their recovery. Of course, prescription drugs must be used carefully or else the patient is at risk of developing a substance use disorder. But if they stick with their prescription and follow it carefully without self-medicating, these medications are considered safe and effective.

What to Expect During Mental Health Treatment

Everybody is different. This means people will have different symptoms, different triggers, and different struggles, even if they are all suffering from the same type of mental health condition. People may also have completely different situations that contribute to their mental health condition. Therapy allows them to learn from their counselors, therapists, and peers. Just like in addiction treatment, a personalized treatment plan is ideal.

A mental health treatment center will create a program based on the patient’s specific needs. This will be based on the mental health disorder they are struggling with, their symptoms, and other factors. Patients are free to choose from the available treatment options.

During treatment, the effects of the mental illness will be addressed, allowing the patient to get back on track and be productive again. They can rebuild their relationships, find new hobbies, and start enjoying life again.

Treatment teaches patients a lot of healthy coping mechanisms and better ways to channel their energy. The patient learns to develop healthy habits and even boundaries.

A lot of treatment providers even offer case management services. A case manager can create, plan, and implement effective recovery strategies for the patient to make their recovery journey a lot smoother.

The patient may also develop a self-help plan which will help them once they are done with treatment. This unique health plan will prepare them for things like triggers, warning signs, recovery, and wellness. This way, they won’t feel completely lost once they are out there dealing with the real world once again. They can stay on track by sticking with their self-help plan even if they are away from the treatment facility.

Much like drug rehab, treatment for mental health disorders aim to make the patient more self-reliant.

Hospitalization isn’t always necessary. But in cases where addiction is involved, it may be needed. Hospitalization ensures that the patient can receive round the clock care from trained medical professionals and addiction experts.

In a treatment center, they can focus on their recovery while staying in a safe and comfortable environment. They can also be monitored closely. Their medications can be adjusted as their condition improves.

Treatment centers offer programs based on the patient’s unique needs and mental health diagnosis. Look for a treatment facility near you today and ask about their mental health treatment programs.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

There are plenty of treatment options for people struggling with a drug addiction or alcohol addiction. But not all of them specialize in treating co-occurring disorders, specifically cases where there are co-occurring mental health diagnoses on top of the substance use disorder. This is where dual diagnosis rehab centers come in.

These programs are designed to address the needs of patients with a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis rehab can address the complex relationship between addiction and mental health.

Some people deal with anxiety disorders or depression by taking drugs. Some people cope with stress by drinking alcohol. Some have conditions like PTSD, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder and decide to self-medicate to deal with the symptoms.

You need expert help due to the complexity of dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis treatment centers employ medical experts who are specially trained to deal with such conditions.

Treatment options for dual diagnosis are not straightforward. Addiction causes a wide range of physical and mental health problems. At the same time, different mental health disorders have different symptoms. Not to mention that various substances may cause different effects as well.

On top of these physical and psychological effects, there are other factors that come to play. There are social factors, for example. Addiction tends to ruin a person’s career, their relationships, their finances, and even their reputation due to the stigma surrounding addiction.

Addiction is characterized by the inability to control one’s intake of a particular substance. They compulsively take the drug or drink alcohol even if it is already causing problems for them. They will prioritize it over everything else, neglecting their responsibilities and losing interest in things they used to enjoy.

Because of these effects, many people believe that addiction is just an issue of willpower and self-control. But while the first time you take drugs may be your decision, soon it becomes something that is out of your control. Addiction is a serious medical condition that prevents the person from just quitting.

If they have developed physical dependence on the substance due to their drug abuse or alcohol abuse, they will find it even harder to quit on their own. They will experience severe withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings every time they try to cut down their intake. In some cases, withdrawal can be very dangerous. But most of the time it is a painful and uncomfortable experience.

It’s easy for an addicted individual to feel overwhelmed by their situation, as they lose their friends, lose their job, and lose everything that is important to them. They may even build tolerance for the drug, meaning it will lose its effect unless they keep taking more and more of the substance. They have to increase their intake just to experience the same high.

The treatment process for dual diagnosis disorder takes all of this into consideration, as well as all the effects of the patient’s existing mental health disorder. It can be tricky to deal with them all.

Treatment centers have to consider how depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, etc., are affecting the individual. On top of that, these symptoms may be affected even further by factors like dosage taken, frequency of intake, genetics, environment, etc.

Dual diagnosis treatment focuses on the connection between addiction and mental health. The patient will go through a period of medical detox, during which their drug intake will be gradually lowered as their withdrawal symptoms are managed by medical professionals.

Therapy may be done during or after the detox stage. This part of the addiction treatment process dives into the root causes of addictive behavior and substance addiction. Therapists and counselors can help patients identify and change unhealthy thought patterns. They will learn healthy coping mechanisms that they can use when they encounter their triggers in the real world.

This approach gives patients the best chances of regaining and maintaining their sobriety. Patients will learn how to replace their substance abuse with healthier choices. And because their drug intake has been lowered through detox, they will be in a much better place physically and mentally to stick with this plan.

Treating dual diagnosis disorders isn’t just about helping patients get sober again, but also teaching them how to maintain their sobriety for the long term.

A dual diagnosis treatment program will use an integrated approach to reach this goal. They will help patients implement healthy lifestyle choices while prescribing medications to help keep their addiction and symptoms under control. Their mental illnesses will be managed with the same approach.

Whether it is drug or alcohol addiction, dual diagnosis treatment can break the vicious cycle of dual diagnosis.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Earlier, we mentioned that mental health and addiction have an interesting relationship. This is why dual diagnosis is so common and why dual diagnosis treatment is so necessary.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over eight million Americans are suffering from a dual diagnosis. Meanwhile, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that around 50% of people with severe mental health disorders are also affected by substance use disorders. The journal also reported that 53% of drug users and 37% of alcohol users have at least one serious mental health problem.

These statistics only prove that dual diagnosis treatment is just as essential as traditional substance abuse treatment. Since drug abuse and mental illness are both very common problems, it is likely for them to occur at the same time.

Some people will self-medicate in order to deal with their mental health disorder. They may drink or experiment with drugs to alleviate the symptoms. But this only worsens the problem as the drugs have adverse effects themselves.

It can also happen the other way around, with people abusing drugs and then developing certain mental health disorders as a result.

In fact, mental illness and addiction are so closely intertwined that they can sometimes end up worsening each other. If a patient has an addiction and a co-occurring disorder, a dual diagnosis treatment is necessary so that both of these conditions can be addressed.

What to Expect from a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program

We touched up on how American addiction centers treat dual diagnosis patients. Here we will go into detail about how the process works. The exact treatment approach may vary from one patient to another since everyone is affected by mental illness and addiction in different ways. However, most programs would follow a general path that includes detox, assessment, treatment, and aftercare planning.

Previously, rehab facilities only tackled addiction and mental health separately. But now dual diagnosis treatment centers are able to provide the care necessary for both an addiction and mental illness simultaneously. This type of integrated care is now accessible through various treatment services and facilities like TRUST SoCal.

Tackling both problems at once also reduces the chances of relapse significantly.

The first step, detox, safely tapers the patient’s use of drugs and alcohol. For some patients, medication-assisted treatment is used. MAT uses FDA-approved medications to help normalize the brain chemistry. These drugs can block the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol, making it easier for patients to quit completely. Medications are also used to relieve cravings and even normalize body functions.

MAT is done under the supervision of medical professionals who can monitor the patient’s progress and adjust the treatment accordingly.

It’s worth noting that there are rehab facilities that only offer detox but not the behavioral therapies needed to tackle a dual diagnosis.

After the detox stage, the patient’s medical history will be assessed. This includes their history of substance abuse and whether or not addiction is a part of the family medical history. The intake specialist will evaluate the patient’s physical, mental, emotional, and social health. This ensures that they are placed in the right program. Different rehab centers offer different treatment programs.

A dual diagnosis treatment program will involve consultations with a psychiatrist who will work with patients to address their addiction and mental health disorder, including their physical and emotional pain. They will help patients face their problems head on so they don’t have to rely on drugs and alcohol to cope anymore.

People in recovery from substance use may also join group therapy sessions, wherein they can share their experiences with people who have been through similar challenges. It is a non-judgmental space where patients can let out their feelings and get some support from their peers. 12-step programs will also be available.

There are also family therapy programs and recreational therapies. These alternative treatments help support the traditional therapy strategies. Examples include yoga, acupuncture, art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, hypnotherapy, equine therapy, and more. These programs provide healthy alternatives to drug abuse.

Finally, aftercare planning is necessary for those who have almost completed their treatment. They won’t be staying in rehab forever. They need to have a plan for when they are back in their usual environment, dealing with their problems, triggers, temptations, etc. Aftercare planning is all about relapse prevention and helping the patient stay on the right path.

A rehab center’s main goal is to teach patients how to stay sober. There may be no cure for addiction, but this condition can be treated. An addicted individual can still learn how to live a long and happy, sober life.

Dual Diagnosis Rehab: Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment?

When choosing a rehab center or dual diagnosis treatment program, you may encounter the choice between inpatient and outpatient treatment. There is no right or wrong answer. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. But what’s more important is choosing the right program for you or your loved one.

As the name suggests, inpatient treatment involves staying in a rehab facility while receiving their treatment services. These programs may last from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the severity of the patient’s addiction.

Food and accommodations are provided, so expect this type of treatment to be more expensive. However, the structured nature of inpatient rehab allows patients to really focus on their recovery, free from the distractions of the outside world.

They can get round the clock care from medical professionals who will keep track of their progress. They can also enjoy the various amenities in the rehab center. Everything is scheduled, and this brings back a sense of order and control, which may be missing from an addicted person’s life, since a dual diagnosis can be chaotic.

Outpatient treatment programs are less intensive and less structured, but they also come with their own set of benefits. Outpatient treatment allows patients to go home in between treatment sessions, meaning they can still stay with their family members even while receiving the care they need for their dual diagnosis. These programs are more affordable, since the patient will be in charge of their own food and accommodations.

This setup is perfect for people with plenty of responsibilities outside of rehab that they cannot leave behind. They can still go to school, go to work, or take care of their family members while receiving treatment.

However, outpatient care is only recommended for patients with a mild to moderate addiction. This is less structured, so there are more temptations to deal with, especially since the patient is not in rehab. They also do not have access to round the clock medical care.

That said, the dual diagnosis treatment can be designed around the person’s schedule, which makes treatment more accessible to them. They also don’t need to adjust as much to life outside of rehab, unlike those who spend time in a rehab facility. The patient can actively practice living a sober life, applying what they learn from their outpatient treatment.

Again, one program is not necessarily better than the other. It’s all a matter of which one is the better fit for the patient.

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