Dual Diagnosis and Addiction Treatments in the UK

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Addiction is something that can affect anybody – people from all walks of life. Whether it be drug addiction or alcohol addiction, addiction can impact all areas of your life, including your mental and physical health.

Thankfully, there is help out there for anybody dealing with substance abuse or substance addiction. Certain factors may influence the type of treatment you need. For example, if you have a dual diagnosis, you may require more specialist care during addiction rehab.

But what exactly does ‘dual diagnosis’ mean, and what does dual diagnosis treatment look like in the UK? Likewise, how does regular substance abuse treatment differ from dual diagnosis treatment? This is what we will be exploring on this page.

Read on to learn all about dual diagnosis, the links between mental health issues and addiction, and more importantly, how Help4Addiction can help you overcome your addiction and mental health problems.

Dual Diagnosis – What Does It Mean

Before we delve into dual diagnosis treatment, let’s explore what exactly a dual diagnosis is. Dual diagnosis refers to a mental disorder/ mental illness and addiction (drug addiction or alcohol addiction, for example).

This could include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorders, and many more mental health issues co-occurring with substance use disorders.

If you are dealing with more than one condition, you will likely need to be treated a little differently throughout the addiction treatment process. For example, if you have depression with suicidal tendencies, quitting alcohol or drug addiction will need to be carefully managed by your healthcare team.

This is because there is an increased risk to your health. Bad treatment can be detrimental, which is why it’s so important you receive the right support – the support you deserve. This is something we can help with at Help4Addiction – see ‘Choose Help4Addiction Today’ to learn more about how we can help you. 

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The Links Between Mental Health and Addiction

People with mental health problems may be more likely to drink alcohol or abuse drugs in order to ease the symptoms of their mental illness/ mental illnesses.

For example, people with depression may binge drink or abuse drugs such as cocaine or ketamine to feel better. However, substance abuse does not treat mental health disorders – it may worsen the problem over time.

Drug use can quickly develop into a substance use problem, which can worsen the effects of mental health and even cause new mental health problems to occur.

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.

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%. These statistics essentially indicate a strong link between alcohol, drugs, and mental health.

Some common co-occurring disorders with alcohol and drug abuse or alcohol and drug addiction may include anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and several others.

People who are in contact with mental health services/ have a mental health disorder and have a history of alcohol abuse may be at an increased risk of suicide. From 2007 to 2017, there were close to 6,000 suicides among mental health patients with a history of alcohol misuse, equating to around 10% of all deaths by suicide in England.

People with eating disorders may also be at an increased risk of addiction. The comorbidity of eating disorders and alcoholism has been documented well, particularly in young women. Those with bulimia nervosa appear to be more likely to have alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues – although the causes remain undefined.

Potential Complications During Dual Diagnosis Treatment

First of all, a dual diagnosis may not be identified easily – the separate but co-occurring disorders may only come to light during the therapy stage of rehabilitation treatments. However, it’s best to identify the problem beforehand so an effective treatment plan can be constructed moving forward.

Dual diagnoses are difficult to pick up on because they often trigger one another. Dealing with addiction may come with an unmanageable amount of anxiety, for example. Likewise, your drug or alcohol addiction might feed the depression you have or even cause other mental health disorders.

Many people will abuse alcohol or take drugs to cope with negative feelings and life situations, often because they haven’t learned healthy ways to deal with problems.

Although you may learn healthy and effective coping strategies, it can take a while to implement them into your life. It can be much more complicated when you have a severe mental illness or an underlying condition that hasn’t been identified yet.

During addiction treatment, it’s imperative that both conditions are addressed and treated. If only one condition is treated – for example, if addiction specialists only focus on addiction and ignore the symptoms of mental illness, the risk of returning to your alcohol/ drug abuse and addiction habits increases.

The Benefits of Treating Mental Illness and Addiction

The key benefit of treating dual diagnosis (mental health issues and addiction) simultaneously has a multitude of benefits for both your physical and mental health. Ultimately, it can increase the chance of a successful recovery from drug abuse and addiction.

First of all, treatment can promote 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. Your general well-being will increase; your health will improve when given the chance to heal from both addiction and your illness.

Another benefit of treating mental illness and addiction is that you will learn how to manage ongoing mental health problems in a safe, effective way.

You will also benefit from better relationships because you have a better understanding of psychology; how your mind works. Ultimately, rehab for dual diagnosis can improve your social life, help you understand yourself and your history, and most importantly, help you avoid relapsing in the future.

What to Expect from Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Co-occurring disorders aren’t always easy to treat. Detox alone is not enough to help people overcome their dual diagnosis – instead, detoxification should be conducted as part of a larger rehab plan/ treatment program.

Read on to find out what to expect from dual diagnosis treatment – from detoxification to aftercare.


The first step to treating a substance abuse problem, regardless of whether you have a dual diagnosis or not, is detoxification.

However, 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.

During the detox stage of rehab, you may experience a combination of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

These can be difficult to deal with, especially if you have a dual diagnosis. This is why we recommend a medical detox/ medically supervised detox – for your health and safety – not because anyone doesn’t trust you to do it alone.

The detox process will probably require 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.

Detoxification deals with the physical aspect of addiction, cleansing your body of the substance you’re addicted to. It doesn’t address the social or psychological aspects of addiction – and does not treat mental illness – this is something that is explored in the next stages of rehab.


The next stage of dual diagnosis treatment is therapy. There is a range of therapies available to treat dual diagnosis – both mental illness and substance addiction; from cognitive behavioural therapy to counselling and group therapy.

Here are some common treatment options for dual diagnosis:

Integrated group therapy – puts you in touch with others in a similar recovery situation.

DBT/ Dialectical Behavioural Therapy – aims to open discussion about your behaviour and change those patterns, and is often used in self-harm patients.

CBT/ Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – teaches you healthier coping mechanisms than substance misuse.

One-on-one sessions aimed at discussing the root causes of your addictions.

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.

It’s important to note that if you have a dual diagnosis, you should expect to work a little harder during this stage. If you’re wondering about how long rehab takes, it may take a little longer due to more focus being applied to this stage.

Inpatient Therapy vs Outpatient Therapy

Therapy for dual diagnosis can be conducted on both an inpatient basis and an outpatient basis – each having its own list of pros and cons.

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 tend to increase in intensity.

The reason for this is straightforward – for 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 can be complex – and often can’t be completed. This is 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.

Secondary Treatment

The support you receive doesn’t have to end once you leave the rehab gates. Secondary treatment, also known as aftercare, aims at providing you support after rehab, streamlining the transition from rehab to your day-to-day life.

This ongoing support may include telephone support, regular check-ups with your therapist, and group therapy work. Some people also benefit from support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Likewise, you could 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.

Ultimately, secondary care can help you maintain your sobriety, manage your alcohol and drug abuse issues, and prevent relapse.

Choose Help4Addiction Today

At Help4Addiction, we understand the impact that addiction and mental illnesses can have on your life. This is why we take the time to learn about any pre-existing mental health problems and addiction issues you may have in order to source the right dual-diagnosis treatment for you.

If you have received a dual diagnosis, our friendly team of experts at Help4Addiction specialise in connecting you with the right resources to help your short and long-term recovery.

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. We’ve helped countless dual-diagnosis patients overcome their mental health issues and addiction, and can help you too.

For example, if you are looking for residential treatment or you’d prefer to undergo rehab as an outpatient, we can help.

We have connections with luxury and private rehab clinics around the UK and can secure you a space today. However, if you’re concerned about the cost of rehab in the UK, we can explore NHS rehab options.

To kickstart your recovery from drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or addiction, contact our helpline at 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.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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