Addiction is overwhelming. The repercussions are often severe. Drug abuse affects every aspect of a patient’s life. Family ties get broken, work relationships – destroyed, and loneliness & isolation are not unusual.
Substance use disorders affect a person’s ability to make sound judgments, which often jeopardizes their physical health. When the addict has built up their tolerance to a specific drug, he often requires higher dosages. The danger becomes even more imminent when a combination of substances is consumed. It often leads to overdoses, and if not addressed immediately, the outcome could be fatal.
Could you imagine what the picture will look like when you add mental illness to it?
If you would like to know more about what battling with a dual diagnosis entails, you have come to the right place.
Dual Diagnosis: Defined
When a patient is suffering from a substance abuse disorder in combination with a mental illness, they have fallen victim to the cruel condition known as dual diagnosis. Another official name for the same disease is co-occurring disorders.
Though it is often difficult to identify which condition appeared first, in most cases, the psychological instability preceded the drug addiction. What is known for a fact is that the two illnesses feed off each other and create more complications for the patient.
Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders
The symptoms associated with dual diagnosis are diverse. They are defined by the severity of both the substance abuse disorder and psychological disturbance. The signs could be divided into two main categories:
Induced by the patient’s mental illness
- Unprovoked and unwarranted loss of brain agility
- Inability to think logically
- Exuding ridiculous reasoning and incoherent thoughts
- Diminishing focus, attention, and short-term memory
- Grim behavior and suicidal inclinations
Related to drug addiction
- Self-isolation and avoidance of communication with beloved ones
- Irrationally risky choices to satisfy cravings
- Moodiness and unexpected & unusual behavioral patterns
- Continuous surge in substance consumption, due to built-up tolerance
- Uncontrolled drug abuse in hazardous environments
- Inadequate drug & alcohol use in social gatherings
Common Types of Dual Diagnosis
The list of combinations of psychological illnesses and substance use disorders is daunting. However, specific mental health disorders go hand in hand with certain types of drug addiction. Here are some of the most common scenarios:
Bipolar Patients Are Vulnerable to Drugs
People with manic-depressive tendencies are almost guaranteed to develop a dual diagnosis. The nature of their mental illness makes it impossible for them to cope with reality.
They struggle between the extremities of their episodes while searching for escape in repeated drug abuse. This brings them in a situation of worsened mental health, as the substances only intensify the conflicting opinions of the voices in their head.
Substance Abuse Accompanies Depression
Depression and anxiety affect the lives of over 18 million Americans. Approximately 11 million of them have reported simultaneous drug abuse.
The two main reasons for victims of depression to reach out to substances are:
- To suppress or escape the negative emotions
- To experience euphoria and retain their happiness
While ‘high’, patients often feel alleviated and extremely cheerful. These emotions quickly dissipate, though, as the effects of the drugs start wearing off. The addict becomes even more susceptible to depressive tendencies, which last longer and result in more sorrowful episodes.
To combat the more intense negative feelings, the addict keeps going back to the named substance, gradually increasing the dosage. What he fails to recognize is that the false positivity is always followed by more extreme depression.
PTSD Patients Reach Out to Drugs
What one needs to understand is that PTSD victims are often recovering from life-threatening situations. They are survivors of tough experiences, such as fatal vehicle collisions, rape, murder witnesses, war veterans, and other traumatic events.
They unintentionally and unwantedly get to re-live the painful episodes, which causes them prolonged and severe distress. The feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and panic entice the patients to seek asylum in drugs.
Instead of finding relief, PTSD victims develop more severe conditions once withdrawal symptoms present themselves. As a result, regular sleeping schedules are even more disturbed, and insomnia slowly starts creeping in.
Schizophrenia & Narcotics Dependency
When having an episode, schizophrenics are incapable of differentiating between imaginary and real situations. The struggle worsens over time when adequate treatment is not administered.
The most common reason why patients start using substances is to free themselves from the daily struggle of figuring out which reality is truthful. Once hooked on drugs, though, the patient becomes even more confused. More vivid hallucinations may appear, and the silver lining of coping with their disorder will slowly dissipate.
Coping with Co-Occurring Disorders
The most efficient and sought-after type of treatment for patients with dual diagnosis is a holistic one. Due to the nature of the disorder, an approach that addresses all aspects of the illness is necessary.
Both the mental illness and drug addiction need to be tackled simultaneously to ensure the patient’s successful recovery. If either condition is left untreated, the risk of relapse and more severe dependency is high.
An integrated treatment often incorporates approaches from various treatment programs. It includes elements of medical detox, cognitive & behavioral therapy, and spiritual support. The end goal of holistic treatments is not only sobriety but also the adoption of coping mechanisms to ensure successful reintegration into society.
What you can do to help someone in their battle with Dual Diagnosis.
If you or a beloved one suffers from the condition, you should seek immediate treatment. It will aid you in alleviating the symptoms of your complicated illness and provide you with cognitive & behavioral mechanisms to lean on. If you do not know where to begin, a Google search for your local area, e.g. “The Best Dual Diagnosis Center in Nashville, TN” could be beneficial. The next step will be to contact your preferred providers and gather any information of interest. Reputable treatment facilities will gladly answer any questions you may have and give you referrals to other possible solutions based on your needs.