Mental Health & Substance Abuse


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Dual Diagnosis Treatment

According to a study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 23 million Americans suffer from some form of a co-occurring disorder associated with a substance use disorder (National Institutes of Health, 2015). These comorbid disorders are considered dual diagnosis disorders, and the survey also reveals that the majority of these disorders are left untreated.

What is dual diagnosis?

The term “dual” refers to the treatment of both substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders simultaneously. This treatment model takes into account the relationship between addiction and psychosis and patients are viewed as having two primary chronic illnesses requiring specific treatment for each. (1)

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) divides substance use disorders into three classifications: mild, moderate and severe. Addiction psychiatrists use criteria such as the patient’s desire to quit medication (but to no avail); repetitive and progressive decline in performance concerning work, personal and academic obligations; and continued usage of drugs despite severe adverse consequences. Of the 11 total criteria, a condition that meets 2-3 is considered mild; 4-5, moderate, and 6 or more, severe. Common disorders include alcoholism and addiction to marijuanaopioids, and cocaine.

Dual diagnosis disorders, also known as co-occurring disorders, are comorbid disorders that occur concurrently with substance use disorders. The significance in identifying dual diagnosis disorders lies in the presence of mental illness. Patients who have some form of mental health disorder such as depression, Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or chronic anxiety are more likely to develop an addiction to substance abuse than those who do not have a mental illness (SAMHSA, 2016).

(1) 1 Minkoff, Kenneth (2006). An Integrated Treatment Model for Dual Diagnosis of Psychosis and Addiction. Psychiatric Services

Comorbidity vs. Dual Diagnosis

The terms dual diagnosis and comorbidity are often used interchangeably but there is a slight difference between the two. A patient has a dual diagnosis if the doctor determines that he or she has a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Comorbidity is a condition, not a diagnosis, which describes two or more disorders in the same person. Comorbidity may or may not include the presence of a substance use disorder.

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment has a myriad of benefits. When both comorbid disorders are taken into account, this treatment model reduces the likelihood of homelessness, suicide, premature death and incarceration (SAMHSA, 2016). Not only does it reduce negative consequences of undertreated disorders, it also lowers the cost of treatment and optimises outcomes. A team of interdisciplinary licensed professionals often work together to assist clients in recovery. Addiction therapists work with social workers who are often on the front lines working with persons suffering from substance use disorders. Through a collaborative network, social workers refer clients to treatment facilities for further treatment. (2)

At New Method Wellness, we add another dimension to dual diagnosis treatment, and that is the integration of holistic therapy, such as massage/acupuncture therapy, equine therapy, wolf-assisted therapy, and psychoneuroplasticity. As addiction therapists and substance abuse counselors work with clients to treat the substance use disorder and the co-occurring illness associated with it, holistic therapy adds meaning to life after treatment and sustains long-term recovery. Our 2:1 staff-to-client ratio ensures client success after treatment, as evidenced by our Extended Aftercare program. Check out our Client Testimonials!

For more information about New Method Wellness’s treatment programs, call +1 (866) 951-1824!

(2)Kelly, TM & Daley DC (2013) Integrated Treatment of Substance Use and Psychiatric Disorders. Soc Work Public Health. 2013; 28(0): 388–406. doi: 10.1080/19371918.2013.774673