When a person has a dual diagnosis, it means that they have a drug or alcohol addiction and a mental health disorder that are occurring at the same time. Dual diagnosis does not imply which condition came first or which caused the other as either scenario could be the truth. The focus is instead on the fact that they occur simultaneously.
Many different mental health disorders can occur at the same time as a drug addiction. However, there are some that are seen more frequently than others. Common dual diagnosis combinations include:
Eating disorders are a category of mental health disorders that are quite complex. In fact, sometimes eating disorders are known as secondary addictions because of their common co-occurrence with substance abuse as well as some of their characteristics. Eating disorders are generally characterized by:
In general, if a person with an eating disorder has a drug addiction, it is to a type of stimulant drug. Stimulants are drugs that excite the nervous system and incite it into action. This function has side effects including surges of energy that can sometimes last for several hours (even days) and a highly suppressed appetite as well as euphoria. Many people with eating disorders use stimulants to supplement their low energy due to lack of nutrition and to keep their appetite very much at bay.
OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder is a form of panic or anxiety disorder. It is often characterized by:
Obsessive compulsive disorder sufferers, if they develop a drug addiction, often find themselves struggling with an opiate addiction. This is due to the effects that opiates (also known as narcotics or opioids) have on the brain and body. Opiates have an overwhelming calming effect on the mind and body that all at once suppresses the systems of the body slowing the breathing and heart rate. They also block pain receptors leaving the user feeling euphoric and immensely calm. This is, of course, the opposite of the symptoms of OCD.
Dual diagnosed people can partake in the standard addiction treatments but also require treatments specifically geared toward mental health disorders as well as addiction. These can include:
Psychotherapy is counseling that is designed to get to the bottom of a person’s mental health disorder, uncovering the causes and factors that played into the development of the disorder and helping the person suffering from the disorder to overcome those issues to heal. It also explores the interconnectedness of the mental health disorder and the addiction and helps to work through those connections and prevent future relapse and substance abuse.
Psychopharmacology is the treatment of a mental health disorder through the use of prescription drugs prescribed by a physician or psychiatrist. In dual diagnosed patients, doctors carefully monitor the recovering addict for signs of drug abuse and addiction and try to choose medications and doses for them that do not encourage relapse or substance abuse.
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