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What is Dual Diagnosis and Why is it important to Address it Early?

Mental illness and substance abuse individually have devastating effects on patients and their loved ones. And, when these two problems merge, the devastating outcome is termed as dual diagnosis. According to the MedlinePlus, people with substance use disorders have two times higher risk of developing anxiety or depression.

This suggests a large overlap between mental health problems and substance use disorders, representing a vicious cycle between mental health and substance abuse problems.

Dual Diagnosis in India

According to a literature review published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, a significant percentage of the population seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) also presented symptoms of psychiatric conditions. The most commonly associated psychiatric conditions included mood disorders, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction.

The figures are significant in the view that people with co-occurring disorders are vulnerable to severe and chronic medical, emotional and social problems. Since they have two disorders, they have greater risk of relapse and a worsening of the psychiatric symptoms. People with dual diagnosis are also likely to experience additional problems such as hospitalizations, symptomatic relapses, social isolation, financial problems, and sexual and physical victimization.

Many studies indicate that timely screening and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) minimize the likelihood of substance use in adolescence. Similarly, addressing substance use related problems early could be an effective strategy to prevent the onset of psychiatric disorders as well as improving treatment outcomes. Behavioral treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have proved to be efficacious in treating co-occurring substance use and psychiatric conditions.

Despite the fact that these problems often occur together, it is difficult to tell if one caused the other, or vice versa. However, there are some common risk factors, like genetics and trauma, that may be responsible for both mental disorders and substance use disorders.

Common Co-occurring Disorders in Dual Diagnosis

Though there are no specific combinations of mental and substance use disorders in dual diagnosis, some of the most common combinations observed are as follows:

  • Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders and AUD
  • ADHD and substance use
  • Major depressive disorder and cocaine/marijuana use disorder
  • Schizophrenia and drug use

Treating Dual Diagnosis

There are three basic treatment alternatives for dual diagnosis:

  • Integrating a single and elaborate treatment approach to address dual diagnosis
  • Addressing one disorder at a time
  • Treating both problems simultaneously (also called as parallel treatment)

However, experts recommend simultaneous treatment of the co-occurring disorders for better results. They advise that treating the substance use disorder (SUD) alone can jeopardize treatment for the mental health disorder. Similarly, treating only the mental health disorder can jeopardize treatment for SUD.

Similarly, psychosocial and pharmacological interventions have been found useful in treating mental health disorders both as independent and comorbid conditions. Though researchers still have different point of views if a single therapeutic approach or a combination would work better, there are evidences supporting the efficacy of psychosocial and pharmacological treatments in providing an effective solution to address dual diagnosis.

Seeking Timely Help is Important

If you or a loved is grappling with a mental health disorder and are also prone to using substances to cope with the symptoms, then Athena Behavioral Health can help you get the best dual diagnosis treatment possible. Call our 24/7 helpline 9289086193 to know more about dual diagnosis treatment. Alternatively, you can also chat online to discuss the symptoms with our trained representatives.