The co-occurrence of several mental illnesses and substance abuse is a dual diagnosis. When mental health and substance use disorders coexist, the person struggles with the two conditions simultaneously, thus the name ‘dual diagnosis.’ Co-occurring disorders are very complicated as they present substantial social, functional, economic, and clinical challenges for anyone battling the condition and the healthcare providers treating them. Hence, co-occurring disorders need an extremely comprehensive approach known as integrated dual diagnosis treatment (IDDT). It treats the entire range of symptoms patients experience physically and mentally.
Integrated dual diagnosis treatment is an evidence-based holistic approach to treating mental disorders, substance abuse, and other related conditions. It entails merging different therapy techniques for mental illness with unique treatment plans for substance use disorders into an extensive program that treats the whole person with various conditions. IDDT is always a preferred treatment model for people with co-occurring disorders because it’s not limited to treating just one problem or situation at a time. It treats all conditions using one program and clinicians in one place. In summary, clinicians merge different treatment interventions to develop one comprehensive plan. To understand more about dual diagnosis, go here.
Testing For Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis is diagnosed through examination and multiple levels of assessment and screening that try to understand a person struggling with co-occurrence disorder from numerous perspectives concerning their symptoms. The signs and symptoms of a dual diagnosis depend on the type of mental illness and the substance use problem. Some of the co-occurring disorder symptoms include:
- Suicidal behavior or thinking, including suicide attempts or plans
- Frequent mood change
- The constant inability to think clearly
- Persistent variations in normal sleeping patterns
- Persistent feelings of worthlessness
- Involvement in social and personal harm as a result of excessive drinking or substance abuse
- Increasing tolerance to intoxicating effects of alcohol
- Vulnerability to withdrawal symptoms when substance use ends or when it increases
- The incapability of managing alcohol intake
Co-occurring disorder symptoms are viable, depending on the patient. With the knowledge that mental illness and substance abuse often go hand in hand, potential symptoms of a dual diagnosis will be noticeable. Doctors use specific, comprehensive procedures to identify the signs. These procedures include:
- Assessing the patient’s substance abuse history
- Reviewing previous medical diagnosis records for substance use or mental illness
- Evaluating previous substance abuse and mental illness treatments
- Finding out the extended periods of substance abstinence
- Number of relapses
- Checking out the family history of alcohol abuse or mental illness
- Checking out for any previous physical and sexual abuse or any other serious type of trauma
- Checking out for any present signs of unusual aggressiveness toward others
- Checking out any unusual behaviors or thoughts that could suggest mental health problems or substance use
Therefore, screening patients is essential to ensuring that people at a treatment facility get a correct and complete diagnosis and the right treatment plan.
Sometimes, screenings are done to see whether more special assessments are necessary. For example, one that’s done to determine whether or not a person has a particular mental health condition. However, mental illnesses and substance use symptoms may coincide, making diagnosing co-occurring disorders difficult. Comprehensive assessment tools help in the diagnosis process.
Necessary Components Of A Recovery Program
There are specific expectations and principles for integrated dual diagnosis treatment that effectively treat co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health issues. Also, these components are considered evidence-based practices, primarily used in programs with excellent results. Programs without these components usually have predictable failures.
These components include the following:
Successful programs comprise several treatment stages, each with unique and tactful concepts. Generally, treatment stages are divided into four, as outlined below:
- Engagement: It involves establishing a trusting engagement or relationship with the patient.
- Persuasion: This stage involves helping the engaged patient develop the driving force to become part of the recovery.
- Active Treatment: This stage involves assisting the engaged and motivated patient to gain the necessary skills and support for managing the condition and pursuing their goals.
- Relapse Prevention: Lastly, this stage helps the patient in a stable condition develop strategies and use them to maintain their recovery.
Customizing this integrated staged approach is a must to meet the patient’s needs and readiness for treatment.
Integration Of Mental Health Treatment And Substance Abuse
Integration means treating substance use disorder and mental illness simultaneously according to the patient’s symptoms and needs.
Successful recovery programs usually provide counseling to encourage the patient’s behavioral and cognitive skills. Counseling takes various forms and formats, including individual, group, and family therapy, or a combination of all three. IDDT adopts addiction counseling that helps patients develop healthy behaviors and thought patterns and adapt to recovery.
Effective IDDT programs engage patients and support system members by offering assertive outreach. It’s usually through merging exhaustive condition management and meetings in the patient’s home.
Social Support Interventions
Aside from helping patients develop skills for managing their conditions, successful programs also concentrate on reinforcing the immediate social environment to assist them in improving their behavior.
Integrated dual diagnosis treatment acknowledges that recovery can take longer than expected—months or even years. It encourages community outreach interventions like rehabilitation activities to avoid relapses and improve gains.
Cultural Sensitivity And Competence
Effective programs recognize that cultural sensitivity and competence are crucial to engaging patients in dual diagnosis services.
Experienced Treatment Providers
Integrated dual-diagnosis treatment practitioners should undergo continuous training for this care. Treating dual diagnoses is hugely complex, so it’s critical that the doctors or healthcare providers are fully knowledgeable and prepared for co-occurring disorders.
How To Find A Suitable Dual Diagnosis Treatment Facility
If you or your loved one is pursuing treatment for a dual diagnosis, selecting a treatment center requires thorough thinking and planning. While searching around for a facility, asking significant, specific, and overall questions about the treatment program to see if it best suits your needs is vital. Ask whether:
- The facility addresses the primary issues of mental health and substance abuse
- The facility has a priority treatment plan
- The treatment program is experimental or proven
- The facility addresses mental health and trauma issues
- They have ongoing supporting programs or activities during the treatment
All these questions should be addressed during orientation or when you get a recommendation for that treatment plan. However, it’s crucial to have an upfront idea about your options and understand how the treatment works.
Effectively treating co-occurring disorders requires the patient’s commitment to the program and expertise of the facility. The facility and the patient have responsibilities; if they aren’t met, the treatment may not be successful.
The Benefit of Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis can be very complex, and every patient’s story is unique. Integrated dual diagnosis treatment is a comprehensive, seamless, and consistent approach to treating highly complicated conditions. It allows doctors to collaborate and try to understand the patient’s symptoms and the consequences of each situation separately. It also enables the doctors to comprehend the dual diagnosis’ causal effects and create a treatment plan. In this regard, recovery means the patient can successfully manage both mental illness and substance abuse disorders and return to their everyday lives.
Co-occurring disorders might be severe, but they’re manageable and treatable conditions. IDDT treatment approaches are more likely to pose positive effects on patients, including the following:
- Housing situation
- Functional status
- Quality of life
- Legal troubles
- Psychiatric symptoms
- Level of substance abuse
Most mental health treatment facilities don’t specialize in substance addiction treatment. On the same note, not all substance rehab programs are qualified to treat co-occurring mental conditions. Thus, it’s crucial to look for a treatment center experienced in IDDT.
The Dangers Of Self-Medicating
Self-medicating refers to practices or exercises someone tries to use to treat their condition by prescribing medication, alcohol, and other substances. In co-occurring disorders, patients try to mitigate their condition’s symptoms by taking alcohol or drugs. Here are some dangers of self-medication:
- Covering up symptoms of severe mental health conditions
- Developing dangerous addictions
- Potentially developing suicidal inclinations
- Social, legal, and other consequences of abusing illegal substances
- Possibly aggravating symptoms of mental health conditions
- Risky interactions and after effects with psychiatric drugs
Whether it’s through drug abuse, excessive drinking of alcohol, or just taking painkillers or antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription, self-medicating and diagnosis can lead to long-lasting consequences. An example of such behavior is when an individual takes alcohol or uses drugs to feel comfortable around other people. People engaging in such behavior mostly don’t realize that they’re self-medicating.
Dealing with substance use disorder can be tricky and even more difficult with a mental illness. Having co-occurring conditions can make matters worse. If you’re seeking integrated dual diagnosis treatment for you or your loved one, reach out to a recognized facility for people struggling with substance abuse disorders and mental health.
Remember that patients can and do recover with a better treatment plan. Therefore, seeking help for such conditions, getting a correct diagnosis, and receiving treatment to feel better is crucial. It’s also essential to have an open mind, look for a support system, and never give up on the recovery process.