The term dual diagnosis refers to the co-existence of two inter-related conditions: a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. There is a wide range of likely dual diagnosis circumstances, from specific causal relationships to broad connections between conditions. A few of the more common dual diagnosis connections include generalized anxiety disorder and opioid dependence, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and benzodiazepine abuse, depression and alcohol use disorder, and cannabis abuse and psychosis.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported that over 17.5 million Americans are struggling with a serious mental health disorder. Nearly one quarter of these individuals, or 4 million, also live with a co-occurring substance abuse condition.
On the other hand, according to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 45 percent of people with substance addiction struggles also battle with at least one co-occurring disorder, representing almost 8.9 million Americans over the age of 18. Regardless of this climbing number, well over 50 percent of individuals with a dual diagnosis fail to receive treatment for either condition, with the other 50 percent frequently getting insufficient care.
SAMHSA has also found that 34 percent of people battling dual diagnosis received mental health treatment, with 12 percent of that number getting assistance for both conditions and only 2 percent registered in a focused drug rehabilitation program. Furthermore, alcohol is the main substance of choice for 45 percent of dual diagnosis patients, following prescription opioid painkillers in 21 percent of these cases.
Depression and Addiction
Experts have found countless links between depression and substance abuse. Those with existing depression struggles are likely to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol to ease the symptoms of their condition, along with existing drug users who are also likely to become depressed as they continue to abuse dangerous substances.
This bi-directional connection can be challenging for clinicians to assess as linking disorders are often difficult to quantify and treat. However, there are specific relationships that have been discovered between central nervous system (CNS) depressants and depressive illnesses. Some of the more common examples of CNS depressants are opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines. The use of these particular substances are more likely to encourage depression rates more than others.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Prior to treating a dual diagnosis client, doctors and medical staff attempt to distinguish substance induced conditions from pre-existing conditions. This is extremely crucial to the client’s success, as some disorders require singular treatment while others need a multi-pronged approach. Should a primary disorder be identified, clinicians may attempt to treat both conditions with one treatment plan or they will approach it from a sequential point of view, with the secondary condition addressed once the primary disorder has been stabilized.