Dual Diagnosis

The Science of Addiction – Dual Diagnosis

The terms Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorder are used to describe situations where people have both a substance abuse problem and a mental disorder. While the relationship between the two can be complex, they are often considered in the following ways:

  • Self-Medication – People with underlying mental disorders (e.g. bipolar, panic attack, depression, etc.) will often seek to minimize the pain or discomfort they feel by self-administering drugs or medications. While this may offer some, temporary relief, it is usually the case that the symptoms return after the drug effect has worn off. This leads to re-administering with increasing frequency.
  • Drugs and alcohol can worsen the mental illness. This can happen both when the person is taking the drug and during withdrawal. Chemical changes brought on by the drug may exacerbate existing problems.
  • Drugs and alcohol may bring on or create new symptoms. Chemicals like these cause changes in neurochemistry and can bring on symptoms of mental disorder (e.g. paranoia, depression, panic attack, etc.) in people with far lesser mental disorders. They can also create these symptoms in people not normally suffering a mental disorder.

It is important to note that both substance abuse and mental disorders have their own set of symptoms and effects. One may mask or exacerbate the other. Also, when one gets worse so will the other. While there may be an underlying mental issue, the abuse of drugs and alcohol will only complicate the matter.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published the following figures:

  • Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
  • 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
  • Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either drugs or alcohol.

It is also important to understand that long term drug abuse brings with it many symptoms of mental disorder. These can even be seen as actual underlying mental problems if a person does not disclose their drug use when seeking treatment from a physician.

Take the case of a long term methamphetamine user who, at the request of their family, saw a psychiatrist for help with their apparent depression. They patient does not tell the doctor about their meth use and is mistakenly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on powerful medications. These combined with the meth and other drugs make for a dangerous, neurochemical cocktail. Thus, the symptoms are compounded and the addiction goes untreated.

The Narconon Colorado Program is designed to address the whole spectrum of causes and effects of addiction. We offer and award winning drug free withdrawal program at the beginning of treatment followed by our proven sauna detox. This combined with our multi-step approach to learning life skills and building a happy, drug free life is why we have the most successful drug and alcohol rehabilitation program available.

“I have spent most of my life in and out of a deep, dark depression so I guess that I am sort of an expert on the subject. I have tried to get relief from this Hell many different ways including therapy, psych meds, drugs, drugs and more drugs. I am here today to tell you that I am now happier and more alive than I’ve ever been. I can’t even imagine taking a poisonous substance again. I am so happy with the way my life is going and I can finally enjoy every day.”
-Mike T