The Problem of Dual Diagnosis with Substance Abuse

Dual Diagnosis, it is a term that signifies that difficulties and problems in overcoming addiction are going to be doubled-up. It is a term that refers to those persons who have been diagnosed with substance addiction along with some major mental health disorders at the same time.

Studies show that among 2 million Americans, 50% of the population abuse alcohol or illicit drugs while having a severe mental illness, compared to 15 percent of the general population.

The major issue faced by Medical Health Care Providers and Counselors while treating patients with dual diagnosis is – ‘diagnosing the condition accurately’. In most of the cases, many experts fail to diagnose the case of dual diagnosis, due to the complexity of the situation as the problems of substance abuse mimics the signs and symptoms of the major mental disorders.
Also, drug and alcohol abuse problems overshadow or aggravate many mental disorders. These are the reasons many experts fail to diagnose the ‘Dual Diagnosis’ situation in a patient leaving him/her in a situation where the provided treatment seems inadequate. This also leaves the patient feeling more hopeless towards recovery.

The fact is mental disorders and drug/alcohol abuse often goes hand in hand. It is found that nearly 50% of the alcoholics have an overlapping mental disorder with substance abuse problems.
One thing is certain and very problematic in diagnosis i.e. substance dependence overshadows serious mental illness. On the other hand, depression usually disguises substance abuse disorders.

Compound Factors:

It is extremely hard to recognize the patients of “Dual Diagnosis”. Only one in two people is identified with the case of ‘dual diagnosis’ i.e. only 50% of the people are lucky enough to get proper medical treatment for their ‘double trouble’.
As normal, the person suffering from mental disorder will deny the problems of substance abuse or addiction. On the other hand, the substance abuse problems mask the mental disorder.
This situation becomes more critical with teens. Just like it is quite difficult to understand that a 15-year-old child is exhibiting normal mood variations or suffering from some serious bipolar diseases.
Substance abuse when combined with teen’s mood swings results in flabbergasting variables. This can be a cue to diagnose ‘double trouble’ in them.

Using One Disorder to Disguise the Other:

It is not uncommon for people suffering from ‘dual diagnosis’ to cover up one disorder with another disorder. These patients usually admit only one problem like admitting their mental health issue or psychiatric issue avoiding their substance abuse problems. And when the former issue resolves, they leave the treatment with their substance abuse problems unsolved.
This phenomenon is mostly found in persons who are self-medicating their mental issues.
On the flip side, there is another type of person who may deny their mental health issues because they think that it is better to be called a junkie rather than paranoid or crazy.

For one client, frustration and depression cause major hindrance in his/her treatment and for another, his/her lack of knowledge and understanding of the goals and processes of the treatment programs.

Put Families in Major Crisis:

Family’s problems rise to manifolds when they have a member struggling with substance abuse and mental disorder both. Most of the mental health services are not fully qualified to deal with the patients who do both afflicting and supporting their family.
Violence is very common in dual diagnosis cases. Along with domestic violence, suicide attempts are also very common in them. A major proportion of mentally ill persons who are wind up in prisons and jails are drug abusers.

Sexual Abuse is also Very Common:
Many studies suggest that a person who is suffering from dual diagnosis is also struggling with the problems of sexual abuse. One Report says that among ‘dual-diagnosed’ people, 40% of those attending treatment admits that they have experiences of sexual abuse also.

Not only the diagnosis of the “Dual Diagnosis” is tough, another major issue a person with this disease is suffering with is the inefficient treatment and services provided to them by treatment centers.
The gap in services for ‘dual-diagnosed’ persons and their families serves as a major problem. This can increase the chances of relapse by not providing proper treatment to individuals.

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