Dual Diagnosis

What is dual diagnosis (aka co-occurring disorder)?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), dual diagnosis (aka co-occurring disorder) is a term used to describe when a person has a coexisting mental health disorder and a substance use disorder (i.e., misuse, abuse, or dependence).  The relationship between the two is complex, and the treatment of people with co-occurring substance use and mental illness is more complicated than the treatment of either condition alone. This is unfortunately a common situation — many people with mental health disorders have ongoing substance use problems, and many people who misuse, abuse, or have a dependency on drugs and/or alcohol also experience mental health disorders.

What is the relationship between substance use and mental health?  Alcohol and drug use can:

  • worsen underlying mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD)
  • be a form of self-medication
  • cause a person without a mental illness to experience the onset of symptoms for the first time

Research has strongly indicated that to recover fully, a consumer with co-occurring disorder needs treatment for both problems — focusing on one does not ensure the other will go away.  Dual diagnosis services integrate treatment for each condition, helping people recover from both in one setting, at the same time.

Click here to read more about the importance of receiving integrated dual diagnosis treatment.

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