man and doctor discussing dual diagnosis treatment

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis refers to the simultaneous presence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment can be difficult and long-lasting. Professional help is almost always required. Further, patients should seek out care providers who have experience and expertise in dealing with dual diagnosis patients.

Any mental health disorder and substance use disorder combination will qualify a person as having a dual diagnosis. For example, a person who suffers from a thought disorder like schizophrenia and abuses methamphetamine would qualify. So would someone who abuses marijuana and suffers from depression.

People often want to know whether the mental illness caused the substance use or the other way around. In reality, the truth is a little bit more complicated. It is likely that, in many cases, the two disorders reinforce each other in a kind of positive feedback loop.

For example, a person suffers from anxiety and uses alcohol to treat it. As a result, the person's hangovers cause anxiety which the person deals with by drinking more. Pretty soon, the patient is drinking heavily and anxious.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment and Prognosis

Dual diagnosis patients bring a variety of challenges to the treatment regime. As a result, the prognosis for a patient with a dual diagnosis is worse than in cases involving one disorder. In other words, these patients are not likely to effectively treat either the mental illness or the substance use disorder. Patients with a single diagnosis of substance use disorder do better.

The prognosis of a dual diagnosis patient depends on the type and severity of their disorders. For example, a patient with schizophrenia combined with multiple addictions will be difficult to treat. Someone with mild depression and a single addiction will be easier.

Patients’ life circumstances can also determine the likelihood of success. Patients who fit the following profile are more likely to succeed:

  • Properly housed
  • Have familial support
  • Engage in productive employment
  • Are not involved in the criminal justice system

Finally, we have strategies to address even the most difficult cases of dual diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Strategy

Dual diagnosis treatment, unsurprisingly, seeks to address all of the patient’s underlying disorders simultaneously. In doing so, the therapist seeks to break the positive feedback loops that drive the maladaptive behavior of the patient. Let's take, for example, a woman with depression and a heroin addiction.

For example, we can combat a patient’s depression with a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. At the same time, we could simultaneously address her heroin abuse via detoxification and suboxone therapy. We could alleviate any worsening depression caused by the withdrawal from heroin with CBT and antidepressants. Lastly, reduced depression reduces the patient's need for heroin.

How We Can Help

At the San Antonio Recovery Center (SARC), our skilled therapists bring affordable, comprehensive treatment programs to many. We welcome patients with dual diagnoses, as well as others, with open arms into all of the following treatment options:

Do you think that you or a loved one might require dual diagnosis treatment? Kindly give us a call at 866.957.7885 so we can walk you through your many options. Come make your life immediately better.

Now is the time to focus on your recovery.


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