Oops! It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. In order for you to see this page as it is meant to appear, we ask that you please re-enable your Javascript!

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

When it comes to the world of drug and alcohol treatment, there is often a treatment phrase that is used called dual diagnosis treatment. This term refers to a patient who suffers not only from the disease of the addiction of a substance itself, but also the condition of a mental disorder that coincides with the addiction.

What Do People Experience with Dual Diagnosis?

People who experience mental health conditions often try to self-medicate and shut out the fear and shame of their condition by drinking alcohol, using street drugs, or other means of hiding the symptoms they experience. They are often too ashamed to get help, and a cycle begins and before they know it, they are inside a whirlpool of substance abuse or addiction and mental health problems from which they cannot escape. According to a National Survey in 2014 on Drug Use and Health, 7.9 million people in the U.S. were recorded as having both a substance and a mental disorder simultaneously. That survey also reported that over half were men.


For those that experience the daunting symptoms of dual diagnosis, the symptoms can vary widely, and many mental health clinics and rehab facilities use screening tools to help to identify those afflicted with this type of disorder. The most widely seen characteristics can include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Participating in dangerous and risky behaviors
  • The loss of control when using substances
  • The need to use a substance to function
  • Each time needing a higher amount of the substance to achieve the desired effect; developing a high tolerance.
  • Patients with mental health conditions can have extreme mood changes that can vary greatly. These mood changes can be cries for help. Confused thinking patterns, problems focusing, and avoiding friends and social activities are among the most frequently observed patterns along with thoughts of suicide when help is most needed.

What Is the Treatment for Dual Diagnosis?

Both issues must be addressed for the substance abuse and the mental disorder, usually in an intervention fashion. The first hurdle the patient must endure is an inpatient detoxification process which usually takes about seven days, depending on an individual’s treatment plan. Inpatient detoxification allows the patient to be monitored by a medical staff 24/7 to taper amounts of a substance to wean a person off and lessen any effect of withdrawal. These centers also render the support and therapy that is needed to treat the disorder and the stem of its causes.

After the initial inpatient detoxification, an outpatient program with continued counseling can come. Sometimes this may be accompanied by supportive housing, should the patient still require close supervision. With the outpatient programs includes psychotherapy and possibly medications for mental illness and to help ease withdrawal symptoms and promote recovery. Support and self-help groups are also available to allow those suffering to express emotions, to find support in others and swap recovery stories and help tips.

It is most imperative to seek help right away if a patient finds themselves experiencing any of the above described symptoms or if a friend or family member notices them.