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Treating Dual Diagnosis


Integrated Treatment Offers Best Outcomes for Co-occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder, is the term used when a person has a mental illness and a substance abuse issue. In a dual diagnosis, the mental illness and the substance abuse are two separate illnesses. Both illnesses have their own symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to function.

Approximately 8.9 million adults have a dual diagnosis. Unfortunately, only 7 percent of individuals receive treatment for both conditions and 56 percent receive no treatment at all.

Interaction of Dual Diagnosis

Co-occurring disorders interact, negatively impacting an individual’s chance at recovery.

The relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is complex, and it can be illustrated in the following ways:

  • People sometimes use alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medication. While the substances can provide temporary relief, they do not treat the mental illness and most often make the mental illness worse.
  • Alcohol and drugs can cause an onset of first-time mental illness symptoms. Smoking marijuana can cause paranoia, leading a person to believe that other people are trying to harm him. This paranoia could be a reaction to the drug (substance-induced psychosis) or it could represent the first episode of psychosis for this person.

Drugs and alcohol can worsen under-lying mental illness. A person with depression who abuses alcohol can become suicidal while intoxicated.

Untreated Illness

When a mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem usually gets worse. When alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase also. There are many consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders including:

  • Homelessness
  • Incarceration
  • Medical illnesses
  • Suicide
  • Early mortality

Integrated Treatment Works

Treatment that addresses mental illness and substance use conditions at the same time (integrated treatment) is associated with lower costs and better outcomes such as:

  • Reduced substance use
  • Improved psychiatric symptoms and functioning
  • Decreased hospitalization
  • Increased housing stability
  • Fewer arrests
  • Improved quality of life

Treatment at Vinland

Effective treatment addresses multiple needs of the individual, not just their substance abuse or mental illness. The treatment for a person with a dual diagnosis is more complicated than the treatment of either condition alone.
Vinland provides evidence-based integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. By treating dual diagnosis simultaneously, we are able to address issues related to the interactions of the disorders.

Sources: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)