What Is Dual-Diagnosis Treatment For Addiction?

After years of stigmatization and considering people with an addiction to merely be weak in character and will, we now know that addiction is actually a disease. In fact, the definition most widely agreed upon a state that addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder in which individuals become chemically dependent due to the compulsive seeking and consumption of alcohol or drugs.

This view is commonly referred to as the disease model of addiction, which goes so far as to suggest that the causes of the condition are biological, genetic, neurological, and environmental in origin. Additionally, this contemporary medical model acknowledges that addiction in some individuals might be the result of some other psychological, sociological, or biological condition of which there are mechanisms, correlations, or causation that require further research and investigation.

To put this more simply, the disease model of addiction both acknowledges addiction as a disease while also acknowledging that addiction has a variety of complicated relationships with a person’s experiences, physical and mental health, and which could be related to one or more of a number of other afflictions.

This view is likely because addiction affects people in many different ways, triggering adverse changes in physical, mental, emotional, and even social health. Because the disease has various adverse effects, it seems understandable that addiction would have a variety of contributors and complicated origins. Many field experts believe addiction could have some sort of relationship or correlation with other conditions, further complicating our understanding of an already complicated affliction.

Whatever the reason and causes for substance users’ condition, the fact remains that there are many individuals who begin rehabilitation in a treatment program because they are struggling with addiction and another disorder. The needs of these types of patients are more extensive and complicated than those individuals who need treatment solely for addiction. As such, there is a particular type of treatment intended for these individuals who need support for a substance abuse disorder and others, and it’s important to incorporate treatment for additional diagnoses into recovery treatment for many reasons. Before we can understand the benefits, we must first answer this question: What is dual-diagnosis treatment?

Treatment and Support for Dual-diagnosis Patients

In short, dual-diagnosis treatment refers to treatment for individuals who have a mental disorder in addition to an addiction, which is classified as a “substance abuse disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Dual-diagnosis treatment is a relatively new type of treatment in the recovery field as it has been offered to dually diagnosed people since the 1990s.

Before dual-diagnosis treatments were offered, people in active addiction who had a mental disorder were denied psychological treatments until they got sober. This, unfortunately, meant compromising the recovery of many of these individuals since it’s common for substance abuse to be perpetuated by either untreated or inadequately treated mental or emotional disorders.

Dual-diagnosis treatments began appearing once we began to better understand addiction as a disease of the mind and body. However, since the acceptance of addiction as a disease, there’s been a continued chicken-or-the-egg debate in the psychiatric, medical, and health fields regarding substance abuse and mental disorders. Specifically, it’s uncertain whether substance abuse can lead to the development of mental disorders, whether mental disorders lead to substance abuse, or—perhaps most likely—if it can happen either way.

Whether it turns out to be one way or the other, this means that treatment of mental and emotional disorders would have to be incorporated into recovery treatment for individuals who have an additional diagnosis so that their recovery isn’t compromised by the failure to treatment conditions that were either the cause or the product of addiction.

Instead of distinguishing psychiatric disorders from addiction, today’s dual-diagnosis treatment programs offer support for both as part of a single continuum, allowing individuals who have and an addiction and a mental or emotional disorder to receive substance abuse treatment and mental health care from a single program. The most common comorbid, or co-occurring, disorders that are treated alongside addiction in dual-diagnosis programs include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, and other mental and emotional disorders.

As part of a dually diagnosed person’s addiction recovery, he or she will receive parallel treatment for the mental or emotional disorder as well. This can include psychotherapy, psychotropic medications, such as antidepressants and antianxiety medications, a reinforcing approach that boosts confidence and self-esteem, group treatment with other dually diagnosed people, and an inclusive treatment strategy in which the individual’s family, friends, spouses, and other loved ones participate in treatments.

The Importance of Dual-diagnosis Support in Addiction Treatment

For individuals who have a psychiatric disorder alongside an addiction to alcohol and drugs, dual-diagnosis support can be the difference between an effective addiction recovery program and one that is followed quickly by a relapse. Mental and emotional disorders have a complicated relationship with addiction that we’re only beginning to understand, but even experts haven’t yet pinpointed the exact nature of these relationships. Still, that doesn’t negate the importance of receiving simultaneous, comprehensive treatment for comorbid disorders.

It’s also important to remember that treatment for the disease of addiction, while also considered a disorder, isn’t the same as treatment for depression, anxiety, bipolar, or some other psychiatric disorder. To ensure success after treatment and sustained recovery, individuals who have a disorder in addition to addiction should only participate in appropriate recovery programs that can offer the specialized treatment that dual-diagnosis patients need.

If you or someone you love has a substance addiction as well as a mental or emotional disorder, please call California Highlands Addiction Treatment Vistas today at 888-343-7366, so that one of our caring specialists can find the dual-diagnosis treatment program you need to heal and leave substance abuse behind. CHAT Vistas, located in Southern California, offers addiction treatment programs that are designed with our clients in mind. A new and more fulfilling, healthier life is just a phone call away.

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