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What is Dual Diagnosis?

By: Rhea Rosier, Palm Partners Recovery Center

December 12th, 2011


Dual diagnosis is the treatment of addiction plus some. Dual diagnosis is the condition of a person considered to be suffering from a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. Mental illness in a dual diagnosis can consist of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and bi polar just to name a few. Any of these mental illnesses along with a substance abuse problem make up the term of dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis needs to be treated as such rather than just a substance abuse problem. A lot of times the mental illness can be one of the driving forces for the substance abuse problem. This is why most treatment centers that deal with substance abuse also do dual diagnosis.

Substance abuse resides in the brain, just as mental illness resides in the brain. So therefore the two have to be treated in accordance with each other through a dual diagnosis drug alcohol treatment program. Dual diagnosis is probably the most effective treatment there is for mental illness plus addiction. Dual diagnosis can make a person more prone to relapse if the two illnesses are not treated together.

That is why attending a drug and alcohol rehab that states a specific modality in dual diagnosis is probably the best option for you if you know you have a mental illness along with alcoholism or addiction. Dual diagnosis is effective because it treats both conditions giving you a better shot at sobriety. When you treat both diseases at the same time you can start to live a full healthy life. Treatment of the two disorders or dual diagnosis should be integrated, not separate, and should be a collaborative decision-making process between the treatment team and the patient. Recovery needs to be viewed as a marathon, not as a sprint, and methods and outcome goals should be explicit.

Drug abuse, including alcohol and prescription drugs can induce symptoms that resemble mental illness which can make it difficult to differentiate between substance induced disorders and pre-existing mental health problems. More often than not psychiatric disorders among drug or alcohol abusers disappear with prolonged abstinence. Substance induced psychiatric symptoms can occur both in the intoxicated state and also during the withdrawal state. That is why it is always best  to find an alcohol treatment center that can treat both conditions. These treatment centers that specialize in dual diagnosis are better equipped to diagnose any conditions. Most addicts and alcoholics come into rehab with mental illness and substance abuse. It is best to utilize an alcohol drug rehab that treats both for the time being until it is determined if it is drug and alcohol abuse induced or a true illness.

If you or someone you know could benefit from a dual diagnosis treatment center please call 1-877-711-HOPE(4673) or go to


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