It’s a sad fact that mental health disorders and addiction often go hand in hand, forming a complex web of support and dependence. Teasing the two problems apart can be almost impossible when they exist in this symbiotic relationship, each element leaning on the other for growth. In this way, attempting to treat just one of the problems can be a considerable challenge.
A perfect example of this is alcoholism, where over 85% of patients are also found to have one or more serious mental health disorders. For drug addicts the figure is 75% and a separate study found that 43% of psychiatric patients also suffer from some form of addiction.
The mental health disorders experienced in these cases vary but may include depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety attacks or delusional behaviour. Each of these – when seen alongside some form of addiction (such as drug addiction, gambling addiction or alcohol addiction) should be seen as a cause for concern which could, in incorrectly treated, hold back the individual’s ability to overcome their addiction.
History of Dual Diagnosis Treatment
In the past, even though this duality was known, it was most common to treat first one of the problems, and then the second. This process is known as “sequential treatment”. A perfect example of sequential treatment would be denying a patient any treatment for their depression until they have successful conquered their alcohol addiction.
As now seems clear, this process was generally rather ineffective as the problem that was left for later often made it harder to get over the first problem. With both supporting each other it is now considered more effective for a treatment program to attack both problems at the same time. This is what has become known as dual diagnosis treatment.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Practise
Most addiction treatment centers now offer dual diagnosis treatment whereby both problems are treated at the same time. On the one hand, counselling and prescription medication are used to focus on the problem of addiction and addiction treatment.
However alongside this treatment, dual diagnosis treatment ensures that any underlying psychological problems are also dealt with. Bearing in mind that these issues are so commonly tied, this “double whammy” of treatment stands the very best chance of helping the individual to not only overcome their addiction but to also achieve a better state of mind.
In such cases professional counselling and careful drug administration can help the individual to get over their psychological problems. The use of drugs to treat both the underlying psychological disorder and the addiction does of course pose risks, hence the need to consult a professional who will ensure that the medications given have the desired effect and do not interfere with one another.
Making a dual diagnosis can be challenging, and requires specialist treatment in order to be effective. For this reason it will normally take a mental health practitioner to safely diagnose the problem and then to suggest a suitable bout of treatment based on currently accepted best practise.