An acute feeling of anguish weighed heavy on her heart. Cold rivulets of sweat trickled down her forehead. Once again, she could feel one of those distressing panic attacks coming on, which caused her hands to tremble while she poured a large glass of vodka. Reliving painful memories of a turbulent past was something Amelia (name changed) couldn’t handle without a drink. Alcohol seemed to be the only quick fix to pacify her restless soul and had been so for some time.
What began during her high school days with a few glasses of wine on weekends, progressed into a compulsive coping strategy. Years of after-work tippling and rave infused binge drinking weekends in the trendy watering holes of Long Beach, San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco led Amelia to discover the magic elixir to douse life’s torments. Parents’ divorce, financial breakdowns, two failed marriages and a string of heartaches got the 36-year-old woman from San Francisco hooked on to alcohol. It was the only way to momentarily escape the blues from mental health issues. After a while, the cycle would start over all again.
Amelia is not alone. There are millions of Americans who battle dual diagnosis in their daily lives. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 8 million people aged 18 years and above had co-occurring disorders in 2014. Alcohol has become one of the most popular anti-depressants to quell the torment of the moment but its negative effects often show up in the long run. It is a startling fact that alcohol-related incidents claim more lives than all intoxicants combined in the United States.
In most cases of dual diagnosis, an uncontrollable urge to self-medicate seems to be the driving force, especially in the case of those battling mood disorders. Since antiquity, the hand-in-glove association between mental illness and addiction is nothing unfamiliar. The two conditions exist because they feed on each other. It goes without saying that individuals experiencing bouts of depression often resort to an easy escape route to find relief from their agonizing state of mind.
Is dual diagnosis a common occurrence?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about a third of Americans experiencing psychiatric illnesses and about half of those living with severe mental disorders also experience substance abuse. Moreover, it has been observed that men are more vulnerable to dual diagnosis than women. Other individuals in the high-risk group include people from the lower socioeconomic classes and veterans of the armed forces. Given the multiple combinations of co-occurring disorders, the symptoms of dual diagnosis differ widely. Some common symptoms are:
- Sudden behavioral changes.
- Indulging in risky substance abuse practices.
- Engaging in dangerous behaviors under the influence.
- Uncontrollable desire for substance abuse.
- Building high tolerance for drugs and alcohol.
Due to the wide range of differences in the symptoms, it is essential to understand the warning signs — severe mood fluctuations, inability to think coherently, problems in concentrating, staying away from social gatherings and suicidal tendencies — to identify whether there is a need to seek professional help.
Treating dual diagnosis
Integrated intervention is the most preferred method to treat people suffering from dual diagnosis, where both the mental problem and the addiction issue are addressed.
Different phases in treating dual diagnosis patients are:
- Detoxification: It is the first step where the patient is monitored 24/7 by specialized medical staff for a maximum period of seven days. Tapering amounts of the drug or its medical alternative might be administered to the patient to facilitate a smooth withdrawal.
- Inpatient rehabilitation: This is ideal for patients suffering from serious mental illnesses and risky patterns of addictions so that they can avail comprehensive and well-monitored medical and mental health care round-the-clock to eliminate the addiction including its underlying causes.
- Medications: Different types of medications are prescribed for addressing a wide range of mental illnesses. Medications are generally used to reduce the negative impact of withdrawal and facilitate recovery.
- Psychotherapy: It involves a series of counseling sessions to make patients aware of their illness and influence their beliefs and thinking patterns to aid recovery and prevent relapse in the future. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in helping patients to cope with undesirable thought processes.
- Support groups: Such groups provide a platform for like-minded people to share their experiences, recovery stories, frustrations and challenges to help kick their vices. People in such groups also forge strong bonds, which encourage them to remain clean and sober.
Fortunately, dual diagnosis can be treated
Mental health and substance abuse often bump into each other at a very complex juncture because people are unaware that they are abusing substances to escape from the worrisome reality looming over their heads. As the symptoms of one disorder can mimic the symptoms of the other, a careful assessment is needed to establish the existence of both the conditions. The need of the hour is regular care from trained physicians and customized therapies to help a comorbid patient avail the benefits of dual diagnosis treatment.
Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized dual diagnosis residential treatment options to treat a person holistically. These programs are specifically designed to help people with addiction recover from the dual conditions through integrated interventions after a rigorous examination of the underlying health conditions. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives. If you or your loved one is suffering from co-occurring disorders, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online for more information on dual diagnosis recovery programs offered at our centers in California.