Beyond the challenges of addiction, could your loved one also be struggling with mental illness? Known as dual diagnosis, this affects more people than you may realize. According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 37 percent of those addicted to alcohol and 53 percent of those with drug addictions have at least one mental illness as well. A dual diagnosis intervention addresses these issues simultaneously with an integrated approach to begin the recovery process.
The Addiction and Mental Illness Connection
You’ve likely heard this analogy, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The connection between addiction and mental illness poses a similar question, which triggers the other? In many cases, people with untreated mental illnesses initially turn to alcohol or drug use because they lack other coping skills. On the other hand, there can be situations where a person has a psychotic break due to substance use. Yet regardless of which came first, accurate diagnosis is crucial in determining the right treatment as is an understanding of how each issue affects the other.
Defining Dual Diagnosis
NAMI defines dual diagnosis (also called co-occurring disorders) as when someone experiences a mental illness and an alcohol or drug addiction at the same time. In some cases, there can be more than one mental illness involved such as an eating disorder and depression. There can also be more than one addiction involved such as prescription painkillers and heroin. It’s a complex scenario and sadly, only 12 percent of Americans diagnosed with addiction and mental illness get treatment that addresses both according to the Office of Applied Sciences at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration (SAMHSA).
Dual Diagnosis Intervention
For the best chance at long-term recovery and healing, these issues should be addressed simultaneously with an integrated treatment approach. We see dual diagnosis intervention as the first step in this process. While a dual diagnosis intervention follows the same steps as any other intervention [link to How does intervention work blog], in our experience there can be heightened anxiety for a couple of reasons. One, people often ‘know’ what addiction looks like, where mental illness tends to be more misunderstood. Also, quite frankly, your loved one may have been living with mental illness for some time, and the wear and tear of that may have reached its breaking point for all of you.
Beyond the Intervention
With three licensed clinicians on our team and a wealth of dual diagnosis experience, we specialize in getting people to the appropriate facility for psychological evaluation and testing – a critical component in the recovery process. What’s more, we include six months of case management after the intervention. This allows us to support your family throughout the recovery journey with the guidance of our master’s level clinical team and a trauma informed intervention protocol that has proven to result in better long-term recovery and healing.