What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
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Dual diagnosis treatment is for patients who are suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse problems. It is based on the theory that full recovery is more likely if both conditions are simultaneously given equal attention. Some conditions that are commonly treated at the same time as addiction to alcohol and drugs include depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders. The effectiveness of dual diagnosis treatment does not tend to depend on which condition was the first to affect the patient.

Some of the most common methods of dual diagnosis treatment include detoxification, single and group therapy, and the administration of drugs. Improving physical health and gaining patient trust are typical procedures in the early stages of treatment, while behavior modification and talk therapy usually form the bulk of later stages of treatment. The combination of methods and their importance in the treatment plan depend upon the patient and the specific diagnosis.

Many individuals who suffer from mental illness also struggle with substance abuse. For this reason, there are special facilities that specialize in dual diagnosis treatment. This kind of setting provides the patient with the opportunity to have both problems treated simultaneously by medical professionals who understand how to effectively integrate two different kinds of treatment. A treatment plan can also be changed, depending on how the patient responds to early rehabilitation efforts.


Individuals with a dual diagnosis commonly get the condition in two ways. One is for the person to attempt to self-medicate an existing mental illness with drugs and alcohol. The other is for the individual to develop a mental illness due to extended, habitual substance abuse.

Dual diagnosis treatment typically addresses the possibility of more severe symptoms because the patient is afflicted with two serious illnesses. Due to the complexity of handling both conditions, patients who undergo this kind of treatment are also more likely to engage in high-risk behavior or suffer relapses. Additional medical care may also be required for patients who have had a dual diagnosis as they are more susceptible to other physical illnesses.

Patients who are undergoing dual diagnosis treatment are also more likely to have other social difficulties. Many struggle with poverty and homelessness. There are also a high percentage of patients with a dual diagnosis who have committed and been convicted of one or more crimes. For this reason, effective treatment may include follow-up with other social services agencies that can help with issues such as housing and employment.



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