What if I told you that the substance abuse may not be your only problem? What if the drug and/or alcohol addiction you have was preceded by something else? A mental disorder? Or the other way around? There is a strong connection between addiction and mental health. For many years, it was suggested that you would need to beat or overcome one disorder before you were able to take on the other. As Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a changing,” and there is now a real connection between addiction, mental health and treatment of both at the same time. It’s called dual diagnosis.
The idea of dual diagnosis or what is often called co-occurring disorders can be described as having both a substance abuse problem and a mental illness experience at the same time. It is not uncommon for someone who has a mental illness to turn to a drug or a drink to try and get a hold of and control their symptoms and this often leads to addiction. Here are some scary facts to your head around: In the USA – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) found that of these people struggling with dual disorders, the majority—55.8%— don’t receive any treatment for either disorder. A mere 7.4% get treatment for both issues. In addition, those who are mentally ill are more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol. According to SAMHSA, 26.7% of people with mental health issues abused illicit drugs in 2012. In the general public, only 13.2% of people abused drugs.
The Connection Between Addiction and Mental Health
In the past things were not clear cut when it came to dual diagnosis. Mental health and substance abuse organisations did not always work together so the curating of vital statistics did not always occur. This also meant that getting treatment as a dual diagnosis patient was not always possible. Patients were often instructed to get clean first then the door to mental health treatment would be opened. Now even the most basic understanding of substance abuse and mental health issues reveal that there is often an undeniable correlation between substance abuse and an underlying mental illness or disorder, treating one before or without the other would often lead to failure more than success.
The first step
In order to understand the connection between addiction and mental health and treat both, you must recognise that is a person is suffering from two things ;a mental health issue AND substance abuse – and this is why people are often now dual screened in order to pick up the presence of both disorders. Your treatment centre professional will look for mental health warning signs despite you entering recovery for the purpose of finding a solution to your substance abuse issue. These warning signs vary but can include mood swings, strange or confused thinking patterns, issues with friends and interactions on a social level, problems with focus and concentration and even thoughts of suicide.
Being dual diagnosed
If you are diagnosed with a mental health disorder or illness such as bipolar, anxiety or personality disorder or schizophrenia or depression AND an addiction disorder whether it be substance based like alcohol or drugs OR behavioural such as gambling or sex addiction, there is a possibility that you will be classified as a dual diagnosis patient and you will receive an integrated treatment programme to lead you along the road to recovery. This treatment programme will integrate both a mental health and substance abuse treatment approach.
So what happens in a dual diagnosis treatment?
That’s a good question! Treatment may vary depending on the centre you visit but there are some common methods used now that you have discovered the connection between addiction and mental health and your treatment professional is helping you recover.
Here are some top methods used:
- inpatient rehabilitation
- supportive housing
- medications and self-help groups
Receiving Inpatient detoxification is often seen as being more effective when it comes to initial sobriety. These treatment centres like Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres will provide medication and the health services you need to manage and treat the substance abuse and all the underlying causes.
Centres which offer residential treatment could help you if you have recently become sober and want to avoid a relapse. Remember that there are certain medications which can help treat mental health illnesses and make withdrawal and detoxification easier and less strenuous.
The use of self-help and support groups give members a place to share and talk about their problems, celebrate the wonderful breakthroughs and successes as well as discuss and share experiences with people who specialize in the field. One of the most important things to remember about using a self-help group is that it is a safe space where you can form great friendships which are not only healthy but can encourage you to remain on the clean and sober journey.
Recovering from addiction to a substance is already challenging. To have to deal with a mental illness makes the road to recovery even more of a challenge but fear not, once you have been diagnosed correctly and get the correct assistance and treatment from professionals who are fully trained to deal with both illnesses, the lights on the road to your recovery shine brighter than ever before.