Get help for a dual diagnosis with a rehab clinic that best matches your needs.
*This page was medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, 9th April 2020.
For many of us, addiction doesn’t come by itself. Rather, suffering from addiction begins in other issues, such as mental health problems, physical health problems, and any pre-existing conditions that you might not have been diagnosed with yet. Often, the therapy work that we do in rehab unlocks other issues we didn’t notice before – after all, most substance abusers use their drug as a coping mechanism. Unless both conditions are treated, there’s a higher chance that you will return to your old habits instead of breaking free from addictions[i].
What does Dual Diagnosis mean?
When you have this dual health problem such as dual diagnosis of alcohol and depression, we call it a dual diagnosis, although you may also recognise the term co-occurring conditions. People who suffer from more than one condition need to be treated a little differently. For example, if you have depression with suicidal tendencies, quitting alcohol or drug addiction will need to be carefully managed by your healthcare team. Otherwise, the risk is that you might take an episode and die due to poorly managed treatments. It is important to note that you should seek help immediately and consider an inpatient psychiatric program to get you on the mend[ii].
If you have received a dual diagnosis, our organisation specialises in connecting you with the right resources to help you recover. Whether you want to find a rehab clinic near you or whether you just need a chat about potentially quitting later – we are here for you. Call us as soon as you can, on 0203 955 7700, or log on to our online consultation service and one of our valued team will get in touch.
Dual Diagnosis in the UK Statistics
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines suggest that as much as 37% of mental health patients and between 6 and 15% of all addiction patients are suffering from a co-occurring condition[iii]. NICE has conducted several studies, one of which found the prevalence of adults with an illness who used drugs was between 1.9 and 7% and for alcohol users it was 7-15%[iv].
These are some serious statistics which could indicate a strong link between alcohol, drugs, and mental ill health.
What are some Common Co-occurring Conditions?
Commonly speaking, a dual diagnosis is often comprised of an addiction plus a psychiatric disorder[v]. Some common cases include:
- Cocaine addiction co-occurring alongside severe anxiety and depression[vi].
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder with alcohol or with cannabis addictions
- Schizophrenia and party drugs, psychoactive drugs, and hallucinogenic drug addictions[vii].
- Depression and anxiety alongside any addiction issues, including suicidal thoughts[viii].
- PTSD and drug use or alcoholism.
- Bi-Polar Disorder and an addiction.
- BPD and an addiction.
There are plenty of other co-existing addiction and mental health problems, but these are those which are most frequently noticed.
Why Dual Diagnosis is more Problematic than Straightforward Addiction Treatment?
It is often the case that a dual diagnosis isn’t noticed straight away. Often, these separate conditions will come to light through the therapies you receive as part of your rehabilitation treatments. At this stage, you are in the best possible place to get that extra help and to adjust your treatment plan to accommodate the change.
Dual diagnoses are difficult to pick up on because they often trigger one another. Being an addict comes with an unmanageable amount of anxiety, for example, not to mention that your addiction might feed the depression you have or give you some other mental health issues. When we drink or do drugs, we are using the substance to cope with life situations, normally because we haven’t learned the healthy ways to deal with our problems. While an addict can be taught these healthy coping tactics, it can take a lot longer to learn and be more confusing, if you have an underlying condition that hasn’t been picked up on yet.
Dual Diagnosis and Detox
If you have a dual diagnosis, you will not be eligible for one of our at-home detox kits. You will usually need to detox in the presence of medical professionals so that you are supervised. Please remember that this is for your health and safety and not because anyone doesn’t trust you to do it alone.
The detox process will probably need a different set of medications if you have more than one condition. This is due to the different ways in which medications interact with one another. The doctor may need to be careful about any negative impact on your mental health caused by common anti-withdrawal drugs such as Disulfiram or Naltrexone.
It is highly common for a client with a dual diagnosis to be monitored during every step of detox. They will want you to go through detox as an inpatient and to go from there straight into your recovery program.
Dual Diagnosis and Rehab
Both inpatient services and outpatient rehab services are eligible for therapy. When seen as an outpatient, you can even get online therapy sessions to cut down on travel expenses. When you have a dual diagnosis, however, the therapy, counselling, or psychiatry sessions double in intensity.
The reason for this is straightforward. Let’s use an example. If you were suffering from depression and went into alcohol rehab or drug rehab, your treatment plan would aim to tackle both of your conditions at once. Treating the two as separate entities is tough, complex, and usually can’t be completed because your addiction and your depression are intrinsically linked. They feed each other in the most negative sense of the word. If you are suffering from two conditions or more, your doctors will tackle them as such because otherwise your therapy sessions won’t work as they should.
Some of the techniques used in therapy include:
- Integrated group therapy, which puts you in touch with others in a similar recovery situation.
- DBT – Dialectic Behavioural Therapy aims to open discussion about your behaviour and change those patterns. Often used in self-harm patients.
- CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which teaches you healthier coping mechanisms than substance misuse.
- One-on-One sessions aimed at discussing the root causes of your addictions.
- Exploring the causality theory – which looks at the link between drug use and mental ill health[ix].
- Examining your history of psychiatric drug use to potentially trace mental ill health to this source.
- Discerning whether your drug use is a form of self-medication.
So those with a dual diagnosis can expect to have to work a little harder in the counsellor’s office. All this therapy is going to take your mind off the withdrawal symptoms while you recover, so it isn’t all as bad as it seems. You will emerge from rehab a more rounded person who understands themselves and their outside influences, better.
If you do have that dual diagnosis of addiction and depression, Help4Addiction cover this in a separate page, so head over and have a look if it applies to you.
Can I get help for a Dual Diagnosis on the NHS?
You can. NHS England and Wales has a liaison service intended to help treat co-occurring conditions. The only drawback of this is that you will wait for months or years until they can treat you. They will treat your two conditions separately, usually at different times. This can leave you short-changed on treatment and could see you tied up in the system for years.
Dual Diagnosis and Secondary Treatments
Secondary treatment, or aftercare, from your rehab centre should include support as you return to your old life. This support might include telephone support, regular check-ups with your therapist, and group therapy work. You might well benefit from seeing a one-on-one counsellor or psychotherapist after you finish rehab, as it may help manage your addiction or your mental health problem on an ongoing basis.
What are the benefits of treating a Dual Diagnosis of Mental Illness and Addiction?
The benefits of treating your dual diagnosis as two separate things shouldn’t be underestimated. Simultaneously treating an illness and an addiction will give you a better chance at recovering from drug abuse.
Some of the benefits of going through rehab for a co-occurring condition are:
- An increased quality of life – one day you will realise that things didn’t need to be so hard as they were before you sought out addiction help.
- Increased wellbeing – your health will improve when given the chance to heal from both addiction and your illness.
- You will learn how to manage ongoing mental health problems in a safe, effective way.
- You will benefit from better relationships because you have a better understanding of psychology.
- It reduces your chance of dying young.
- Seeking rehab help can improve your appearance, improve your social life, help you understand your actions, and, above all else, teach you how to avoid relapsing in future.
As you can see, there are more benefits to seeking help for a dual diagnosis than you previously thought.
How do you know if you have a co-occurring disorder?
If you think you might suffer from a co-existing condition on top of your drug addiction, seeking treatment is your best way out. Some of the symptoms of a dual condition include:
- Switching between low mood and an elevated mood
- Euphoria, either randomly in bursts or prolonged periods.
- Feeling out of sorts, down in the dumps, and isolating yourself.
- Insomnia, suicidal thoughts in the small hours of the morning, and nightmares/anxiety dreams.
- Anger issues and rage outbursts
- Irritability (although this is a symptom of drug use, too, so is harder to spot)
- Hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, and other mental health problems.
If you are suffering from any of the above on top of your drug or alcohol addiction, you should have seen a doctor for clarity. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be similar to these, so be careful.
What is Poly-Drug Abuse Disorder?
Poly-drug abuse[x] is when the experts aren’t sure what your mental health problem is but know that you have one. These sufferers also use drugs often, or to an extent which is considered dangerous. They don’t need to be addicted to drugs, but they do need to abuse them over time.
Drug abuse is when you use drugs to an excess in one session, as opposed to drug addiction, where you cannot get through the day without a hit. a
Why choose Help4Addiction?
If any of this sounds overly familiar, remember to contact our helpline, on 0203 955 7700. Alternatively, you can read about some of the support methods we facilitate, such as online therapy or at home detox kits for alcohol detox. Please note that these are not suitable for drug detox clients.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does Dual Diagnosis mean?
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What does a Dual Diagnosis do to you?
What is the Dual Diagnosis Definition?
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