Dual Diagnosis Latest Facts: Ways to Treat This Complex Substance Use Disorder

Many individuals with substance abuse disorder (SUD) are also diagnosed with a mental or behavioral illness. This condition is called dual diagnosis, sometimes referred to as dual disorder and co-occurring disorder. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 45% of people have a dual diagnosis. It shows the extent of this issue, and it can be more common than expected.

Mental Health Care

Mental Health Care

A person with mental health issues and substance addiction may experience symptoms that may hinder their ability to do things normally at work or school, face life’s challenges, sustain a healthy domestic life, or adequately connect with others.

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Co-occurring disorders can influence one another and worsen the situation. When a mental health issue is not dealt with correctly, the substance abuse issue can worsen, and vice versa. It can then aggravate the mental health condition due to abuse of drugs or alcohol.

Because of the seriousness of this issue, people with a dual diagnosis must do something to address their problem. They can start by acknowledging the need to seek help and finding effective treatment options and coping strategies that will allow them to function normally again.

Signs Of Substance Abuse Disorder And Mental Health Issues

Before tackling the ways to seek help for a dual diagnosis, knowing the signs of substance abuse disorder and mental health issues can be helpful to be more aware of the symptoms found in this condition.

Signs of substance abuse disorder are:

  • Lack of ability to manage drug or alcohol use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not taken
  • Cravings for substances
  • Risky behavior
  • Tolerance of use of substances
  • Financial or legal problems

Signs of mental health issues are:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Incapable of functioning normally in everyday life
  • Confusion
  • Unexplained physical pain
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Social isolation
  • Eating or sleep problems
  • Changes in mood, bouncing between highs and lows

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Likewise, if you want to know more about dual diagnosis and its treatment, you can go over this recommended reading.

Ways To Seek Help For Dual Diagnosis

Seek Peer Support Groups

If an individual has a dual diagnosis, it can be a good step for such a person to seek peer support groups. Here, individuals who suffer the same dual diagnosis share their experiences, offer knowledge and provide social and emotional assistance to people undergoing the same circumstances.

As for scientific evidence, systematic reviews have acknowledged that while peer support and clinical practice commonly perform decently on traditional outcome measures such as rehospitalization and relapse, peer support has better results in areas related to the recovery process.

In addition, peer support provides more engagement, self-efficacy, and empowerment. This benefit of peer support could stem from the social connectedness people with a dual diagnosis or other mental health issues encounter with peers.

One study even reported that individuals with severe mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychoses, highly valued the sense of interconnectedness that comes from sharing personal experiences.

There are many benefits of having a peer support group for people with a dual diagnosis. First, it allows the person with a dual diagnosis to have hope. Second, it helps someone to remember that he’s not alone. Third, it’s affordable compared to other treatment options. And lastly, it allows the person to share what he or she feels.

If you want to know specific peer support groups for dual diagnosis, you can consider Dual Recovery Anonymous, Dual Diagnosis Anonymous, and Double Trouble in Recovery groups.

Go To Treatment Centers

Many mental health and addiction treatment centers provide different care levels and therapies to aid individuals with dual diagnoses. They can help treat both the symptoms of mental health issues and substance abuse simultaneously. This procedure is called integrated treatment, which usually leads to better results.

Note that untreated or undiagnosed mental disorders can hinder substance abuse treatment. They also play a part in a person having an addiction. For that reason, seeking a dual diagnosis treatment center can be a good option.

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Standard therapies and processes provided at a dual diagnosis treatment center are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is an effective talk therapy where the therapist and client collaborate to identify and address unhealthy thought patterns.
  • Family Therapy: Interpersonal conflicts and the demand to care for a person with a dual diagnosis are good reasons for patients and their family members to seek family therapy.
  • Assertive Community Therapy: This is a common type of therapeutic service that can include social work, psychiatry, nursing, substance use treatment, and vocal rehabilitation. In assertive community therapy, an individual will receive continuous treatment and assistance while living at home.
  • Individual Therapy: Also known as psychotherapy, is a vital component of any plan for dual diagnosis treatment. Here, a client deals with maladaptive thinking patterns, becomes aware of good coping skills, undergoes treatment plans, and processes events.
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy: A person can receive medications meant to address mental health issues, ease withdrawal symptoms, and foster sustained substance recovery. Also, medicines can be used to detoxify substances and during medical withdrawal.
  • Evaluation and Diagnosis of Mental Health Disorders: Here, a person will visit a dual diagnosis treatment center to have a mental health assessment to have the proper treatment.

Be Sober To Cope With Dual Diagnosis

Addiction prevents a person from having stability and daily structure when addressing mental health. However, being sober allows them to develop positive habits that will help them stay moderate while having a healthy mind.

With sobriety, an individual can go back to hobbies and activities that they left long ago. Similarly, with the permission of a healthcare provider, one can begin to start exercising and eating a healthy diet.

Some positive habits that one can incorporate are:

  • Cooking
  • Meal Preparation
  • Home Cleaning
  • Meditation
  • Communicating with other friends in recovery
  • Having the right amount of sleep
  • Reading

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There are ways to be sober. A person can start by knowing their triggers. Know what triggers the cravings and thoughts of using substances. It can be external or internal such as work stress and feelings of sadness. Another step is to avoid old habits and routines that allow one to slip back to substance use. Third, one can develop a structured schedule of the things to do in a day. These preventive measures can help a person stay sober and avoid having a disorganized lifestyle that hinders recovery.

Other ways to be sober are practicing healthy living, focusing on finances to prevent monetary issues caused by addiction, and preparing for post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).


Dual diagnosis occurs when substance abuse addiction and mental health issues are present in an individual. It can cause a lot of adverse outcomes that can get worse if left untreated. Because of its harmful effects, it’s ideal to know how to seek help for dual diagnosis. It starts by understanding the effective treatments and coping strategies that a person can apply.

Overall, some treatment options and coping strategies that a person can have are peer support groups, treatment centers, and being sober as a coping strategy.






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