In the past, many medical professionals believed that there was no hope to adequately treat addicts who suffered from co-occurring conditions of mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. This was a serious problem as research shows that over 50% of the people with mental illness such as schizophrenia and Bi-Polar disorder also self-medicate their symptoms with drug use and are highly susceptible to addiction. Thankfully there are now treatment facilities that can treat both the underlying mental illness as well as the addiction in an addict, and the definition of what is dual diagnosis is simply the treatment of addiction and co-occurring mental illness within the same facility.

Dual diagnosis really occurs much more frequently than many realize as statistics from Mental Health America show that greater than one-third of alcohol abusers and more than half of drug abusers have at least one serious mental illness.

Dual diagnosis does follow some of the same patterns of other addiction treatment plans, but the addict will receive treatment for addiction and mental illness at the same time. Progress is usually much slower for individuals with dual diagnosis than for other addicts, as is to be expected than if someone just has to deal with one or the other ailments alone. One of the many things that complicate treatment in those with dual diagnosis is that many of these mental health issues do require treatment with medications that can be habit forming.

Among dual diagnosis professionals, there is a movement to classify the type of addiction and mental illness within dual diagnosis into four broad categories: primary mental illness that leads to substance abuse, substance abuse with associated symptoms of mental illness, unrelated, co-existing mental illness and drug addiction, and predispositions to mental illness and substance abuse due to common underlying contributing causes which can include homelessness, depression and alcoholism. Regardless of which of these four categories any individual addict’s actual dual diagnosis may fall and even though dual diagnosis is a difficult disorder to treat, with the type of specialized care and support that are available in addiction treatment programs that offer dual diagnosis, it really is possible for addicts to make progress with both their addiction and mental illness and acquire the treatment, education and support that they need to become and remain addiction free.

Dual diagnosis does not need to be the end of someone’s life and it is not correct to assume that someone with dual diagnosis will continually fall into a pattern of stability that gives way to bouts of mental illness and substance abuse. While there is certainly a greater tendency for this to occur, with proper treatment and support this does not need to be the case. Since it is recognized that those with dual diagnosis are more likely to have greater difficulty with all stages of addiction treatment, additional assistance is often provided to those with dual diagnosis, including career skills training, job and relocation assistance and even halfway programs to help make the transition back into society easier for individuals with dual diagnosis.

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