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As we continue our look into dual diagnosis, we already have identified the many challenges involved, symptoms, and some at-risk populations. Today we discuss dual diagnosis treatment.

Once again, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that dual diagnosis is “a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously.” The two diagnoses share a close relationship across a number of areas. NAMI states: “Either disorder—substance use or mental illness—can develop first. People experiencing a mental health condition may turn to alcohol or other drugs as a form of self-medication to improve the mental health symptoms they experience. However, research shows that alcohol and other drugs worsen the symptoms of mental illnesses.”

And, as we’ve note, NAMI further states: “According to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.9 million people in the U.S. experience both a mental disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously. More than half of those people—4.1 million to be exact—are men.”

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

How can dual diagnosis be treated?

As we noted previously, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “supports an integrated treatment approach to treating co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. Integrated treatment requires collaboration across disciplines. Integrated treatment planning addresses both mental health and substance abuse, each in the context of the other disorder. Treatment planning should be client-centered, addressing clients’ goals and using treatment strategies that are acceptable to them.”

NAMI notes that “the best treatment for dual diagnosis is integrated intervention, when a person receives care for both their diagnosed mental illness and substance abuse.” Importantly, “the idea that ‘I cannot treat your depression because you are also drinking’ is outdated—current thinking requires both issues be addressed.”

Common methods can include:

  • Inpatient Rehabilitation. “A person experiencing a mental illness and dangerous/dependent patterns of substance use may benefit from an inpatient rehabilitation center where they can receive medical and mental health care 24/7. These treatment centers provide therapy, support, medication and health services to treat the substance use disorder and its underlying causes.”
  • “Supportive Housing, like group homes or sober houses, are residential treatment centers that may help people who are newly sober or trying to avoid relapse. These centers provide some support and independence. Sober homes have been criticized for offering varying levels of quality care because licensed professionals do not typically run them. Do your research when selecting a treatment setting.”
  • “Psychotherapy is usually a large part of an effective dual diagnosis treatment plan. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people with dual diagnosis learn how to cope and change ineffective patterns of thinking, which may increase the risk of substance use.”