Important Facts To Know About Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment

When someone has been diagnosed with addiction issues and a mental health disorder, it is known as a dual diagnosis. The interplay between both conditions can present obstacles to a patient’s recovery, making their issues more difficult to treat which often compounds risks of negative health consequences if left untreated.

Here are some fast facts about dual diagnosis and dual diagnosis treatment programs:

Dual Diagnosis Is Very Common

It is not unusual for someone to struggle with alcohol or drug addiction and mental illness at the same time. According to research more than one in four people with mental health issues also suffer from addiction problems. People who are diagnosed with mood disorders are even more likely to fall into addictive behaviors.

Around 6% of patients hospitalized in mental health treatment centers are in dual diagnosis treatment facilities. Out of these patients, 4% also use alcohol and 4% with both alcohol and drugs. These stats clearly show the link between mental illness and addiction although, in terms of treatment, both are dealt with as separate conditions.

Certain Mental Health Issues Prevail in Dual Diagnosis

According to research from dual diagnosis treatment facilities, addiction problems are closely associated with specific mental health issues including the following:

  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia and personality disorders
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder  or PTSD

The mental illness most commonly related to addiction issues is bipolar, with research showing sufferers are 50-60% more likely to suffer both conditions at the same time.

Substance Abuse Can Sometimes Present As a Mental Illness

The symptoms of addiction can sometimes display in the same way as some organic mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or chronic depression. However, treatment for mental health problems caused as a result of addiction is not the same as dual-diagnosis and patients are often more responsive to treatment.

A number of mental disorders can lead to addiction and conversely, addiction can also lead to mental health issues in different ways:

  • Someone suffering a mental disorder may start to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to manage the symptoms of their condition.
  • The kind of meds used to treat mental health disorders can sometimes prompt sufferers to seek alternatives that produce the same chemical effect.
  • Reduced resistance to drug use due to prolonged use of prescribed drugs that affect impulse controls.
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain as a result of substance abuse can create, heighten and uncover mental health issues.
  • Using substances can often expose users to more stress as a consequence of their addiction which can lead to an inability to deal with difficult situations and ultimately a mental disorder.

The Most Common Underlying Factors Contributing to Dual Diagnosis

There are certain characteristics at play that contribute to the concurrent development of addiction and mental health problems, as follows:

  • Genetic disposition

A person’s genetic makeup can make them more or less likely to develop mental health issues or addiction problems. A predisposition for mental health disorders can facilitate a path to substance abuse just as an addictive personality can lead to mental health issues.

  • Personality

A strong desire to take risks or thrill-seek are personality traits often found in both addicts and sufferers of mental health disorders.

  • Brain Chemistry

A chemical present in the brain called dopamine is affected by using substances and also certain mental health disorders. Changes in the brain from one disorder have the potential to increase the development in the other.


Patients with dual diagnosis can be extremely complex to treat which is why specialist and professional treatment is recommended. Through successfully treating both conditions separately, it is often possible to create beneficial outcomes, where both conditions are successfully managed and the symptoms reduced considerably.

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