Dual Diagnosis Treatment

All people who are rebuilding their lives while in addiction recovery face their share of challenges to overcome. For people who abuse substances and manage a mental health disorder, those challenges are even greater. Addiction treatment can be effective for people with co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, as it is commonly called in the addiction treatment world.

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Government data shows that 8.1 million people (41.2 percent) among 12.6 million adults with past-year Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD) also had Any Mental Illness (AMI) in 2015.

Some Mental Health Disorders Are:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This means that substance abuse and mental illness often go hand-in-hand, which also signifies that dually diagnosed clients in treatment must receive care that simultaneously addresses both conditions for them to achieve stability.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that dual diagnosis is a broad term that covers a variety of conditions and situations. “It can range from someone developing mild depression because of binge drinking, to someone’s symptoms of bipolar disorder becoming more severe when that person abuses heroin during periods of mania,” the Alliance writes on its website.

Commonly used drugs among people who are dually diagnosed are alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana.

Don’t battle your dual diagnosis alone. Call now and get connected to our treatment specialists who can get you connected to the help you need!

Don’t battle your dual diagnosis alone. Call now and get connected to our treatment specialists who can get you connected to the help you need!

Why Are Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Linked?

Researchers continue to study the complex relationship between addiction and mental health to understand what happens and why. The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists three scenarios that illustrate why substance abuse and mental illness are linked. One is that mental health disorders can lead people to abuse drugs as a form of self-medication. Self-medication can exacerbate both conditions if left unprofessionally treated. People in this group are also vulnerable to relapse.

Symptoms of common mental illnesses such as anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or depression include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Excessive tension or worrying
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sharp increases in energy
  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia
  • Racing thoughts or rapid speech
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Numbness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Impaired judgment or impulsivity
  • Restlessness

Dual-diagnosis symptoms include experiencing extreme guilt or anxiety after substance use, depression, using substances to cope with negative situations, sudden changes in mood and bouts of anger, strained interpersonal relationships, bipolar disorder, and cloudy judgment.

Using substances to self-medicate makes it harder to determine how the two conditions are related. In some cases, substance abuse masks serious underlying mental health disorders, which means many cases have not been properly diagnosed.

People with both conditions also may be in denial about either one or both, which means they are unlikely to seek professional treatment.

According to a NIDA study, of the 7.9 million people with co-occurring disorders, only about eight percent receive treatment for both conditions. More than 50 percent receive no treatment at all.

How Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Is Not Like Traditional Rehab

Substance abuse treatment centers that specialize in dual diagnosis start with improving one’s mental state. Professionals use an integrated approach of clinical and therapeutic practices to address the person’s condition(s). They also keep in mind the unique needs of people with co-occurring disorders, which differ from those who have only one condition. This is why traditional programs for substance abuse may not work for a person with dual-diagnosis.

Benefits of Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Dually diagnosed clients who are treated at drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers can address and work on behaviors that aid their addiction by attending counseling or therapy sessions and using medication, if necessary. Other benefits include:

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Proper diagnosis of underlying mental health disorders. No more guessing about whether there is an underlying condition that fuels substance abuse. You will have the answers you need and access to treatment that can help you address the issue.


Time to understand substance abuse. Clients get the time and space they need to recover both physically and mentally from a co-occurring disorder. Treatment methods in a program that uses integrated care can address needs that are specific to your situation.


Mental health education. Learning about what happens and why it happens is key to learning how to make different decisions that support sobriety. Developing healthy coping skills can help dually diagnosed clients identify and understand their triggers, deal with stress, and build quality relationships. Clients may attend behavior therapy sessions or counseling sessions to better understand their condition, and they could be prescribed medication under their doctors’ care.


Strong network of support. Psychiatric professionals, clinical nurses, peers in recovery, as well as friends and family can help dually diagnosed people stay the course as they seek to improve their condition. They may feel even more encouraged to stick with treatment by working with people who understand mental health care needs and how they affect people with substance use disorder.

Before it can be determined that dual diagnosis is present, a mental health professional must first carefully evaluate the individual’s condition according to the latest version of theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If it is present, then people who meet the criteria for it may be eligible to receive treatment at a center that offers specialized care.

Let Us Help You Find Your Path to Recovery Today

If you have an addiction and mental health disorder, you can use your time in recovery to focus on both at a center that offers dual diagnosis treatment. At California Highlands, we know how tough alcohol withdrawal can be. We view detox as a critical part of recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

We offer a complete, 24-hour medically supervised drug program to help you or your loved one recover from alcohol addiction. Call us today at (855) 935-0303 to begin your road to sobriety. Talk with us about your situation and ask us questions about our program and services.