Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program
Many people think of drug and alcohol addiction as problems that occur independently from any other health issues, mental or physical. However, it is much more common that people will suffer from multiple health issues at the same time. Mental health conditions and addiction occur together quite often. In fact, 50 percent of those who suffer from addiction also suffer from a mental health issue. This state of having a mental health disorder and an addiction is referred to as a dual diagnosis and requires a dual diagnosis treatment program to be dealt with and overcome.
Mental Health Condition and Addiction Statistics
In order to better understand the co-occurrence of mental health conditions and drug and alcohol addictions, you will want to know some of the statistics regarding these two types of disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA for short) estimated that somewhere around 43.6 million people in the United States suffer from a mental health disorder of some sort.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), one in five people in the United States have a mental health disorder and one in 25 have a serious or severe mental health disorder. On the other hand, SAMHSA states that around 20.2 million people have substance abuse disorders at any given time.
With numbers like these, it is no wonder that there is so much crossover between the two types of health disorders. SAMHSA indicates that around 7.9 million people have both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem. However, these numbers may be low as not everyone that has mental health issues has been diagnosed with a specific condition (meaning they have a condition but have not yet sought mental health care for it).
Biological Factors for Mental Health Disorders and Addiction
One of the reasons that mental health disorders and addictions occur together so often may be biological in nature. When a person has a mental health disorder like schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety, they have problems in their brain on a chemical level. The chemicals and hormones in the brain are chronically out of balance when a mental health disorder is present. The exact mechanisms of these imbalances will depend on the exact mental health condition a person has.
However, in almost all mental health conditions, dopamine and/or serotonin are affected. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that plays a major role in the experience of pleasure and euphoria. It can also impact perseveration and compulsive behaviors. Serotonin, on the other hand, is a chemical that contributes to a person's mood, memory, sleep, and even their thinking (cognition).
Both of these brain chemicals have an impact on a person's mental health and mental health conditions are often, in part, related to problems in these areas. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, these same areas of the brain are affected.
When a person abuses drugs or alcohol, those substances have chemical effects on the brain as well. They impact the ways in which dopamine and serotonin are delivered to receptors in the brain. This can, of course, impact mood, the ability to experience pleasure or euphoria, and the like.
Because these conditions both affect the same areas and processes in the brain, it is biologically understandable how and why they might occur together. They have so much in common that they cannot help but overlap for millions of people.
Mental Factors for Mental Health Disorders and Addiction
Of course, when it comes to co-occurring mental health disorders and addictions, biology is not the only factor to keep in mind. There are also mental and emotional factors that play a large role in the combination of these conditions. If a person has a mental health disorder and is experiencing symptoms, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to help stop those symptoms. This can lead them to first be mentally and emotionally dependent on a substance even before they develop a physical or biological addiction.
Order of Development of Mental Health Disorders and Addiction
When it comes to mental health disorders occurring alongside drug or alcohol addictions, many people assume that one always precedes and/or causes the other. The common idea is that a person with a mental health disorder will cause a person to develop an addiction.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, an addiction can occur before a mental health disorder develops with or without causing it. An example would be methamphetamine abuse and psychosis. Meth can cause a person to experience psychosis, which is a mental health condition in which the person loses touch with reality and may experience hallucinations including visual and auditory hallucinations. This condition can be temporary and wear off when the effects of the meth do or can become a chronic and long-lasting problem for the person afflicted.
The thing about addiction and mental health disorders is that they can occur one after the other with or without cause. They can also develop simultaneously. It is often difficult to discern which condition causes which if there is a cause to be found.
Common Mental Health Disorder and Addiction Combinations
* Alcohol and Depression
When it comes to dual diagnosis, one of the most common combinations of disorders is an alcohol addiction occurring alongside depression. Depression also happens to be one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States today, affecting about 16.2 million people in the United States annually. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and more.
When a person feels depressed, they may turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Alcohol can make a person feel temporarily euphoric, happy, or relaxed when they consume alcohol, which a person can find temporarily helps their depression symptoms. However, alcohol is a depressant, which means in the long run, it can make depression symptoms worse.
* Opioids and Bipolar Disorder
Another combination of mental health disorders and addiction that occur together often is bipolar disorder and opioid drugs. When a person has bipolar disorder, they experience mood swings that are either very low (depression) or very high (mania). When manic, a person will have difficulty sleeping, will have excess energy, may be highly agitated, and could even experience psychosis.
Opioids have an opposite effect on the brain and body from mania. While euphoria is still possible, opioids are much more of a nervous system suppressant. A person will feel extremely relaxed and sleepy. Their heartbeat and breathing rates may also drop significantly. Abuse of opioids can occur during mania to try to sleep and relax. A person could also abuse them when depressed for the euphoric effects.
Other Common Dual Diagnoses
Some of the other combinations of mental health disorders and addictions include:
Anxiety and Benzodiazepines Depression and Stimulants Schizophrenia and Amphetamines OCD and Alcohol
While these are some of the more common dual diagnoses seen in a dual diagnosis treatment program, a person may experience any combination of mental health disorders and addictions together.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
If it turns out that a person has a dual diagnosis, the treatment that they receive for both their mental health disorder and their addiction will be different than the treatment received by a person with just one of the other types of condition. A dual diagnosis treatment program is designed to help a person cope with these co-occurring disorders.
When a person goes to a dual diagnosis treatment program, they will be getting simultaneous addiction and mental health treatment. The idea behind these types of programs is that because mental health disorders and addictions are so closely linked, they need to be treated together.
Remember that both mental health disorders and addictions directly affect the brain chemistry, specifically dopamine and serotonin pathways. If you treat one without addressing the other, the chemical imbalances will still be there. This often leads to substance abuse relapse and can make it impossible to properly treat a mental health condition, delaying treatment progress or hindering it entirely.
A dual diagnosis treatment program will prevent such issues. While a person is getting the drugs or alcohol out of their system, they can also receive care and treatment for their mental health. This can include psychological counseling, appointments with a psychiatrist, and sometimes even medications. As treatment continues, counseling and therapies will focus on both the addiction and the mental health condition, including the ways in which those two conditions may interact and overlap.
Many dual diagnosis treatment programs offer a variety of treatments and therapies to help in this process. Art therapy, for example, is a popular offering. Dual diagnosis patients are able to use art as a way to express their feelings and emotions as well as process and deal with their feelings and traumas. Other options for treatment include yoga, meditation, group therapy, family therapy, nutritionist sessions, spiritual therapy, and more.
A dual diagnosis represents a challenge for most people. Having two conditions that simultaneously affect the brain can be quite confusing for the person experiencing these conditions. However, with the right dual diagnosis program, a person can overcome their addiction and learn to manage their mental health condition all at once.
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