According to experts, drug addiction is its own mental illness, as it causes structural damage within the cells of the brain, and that damage makes it difficult for people to control their impulses and reign in their desires. There are times when addictions exist alongside other mental illnesses. The terms “comorbidity” or “dual diagnosis” might be used to describe the cluster of symptoms these people face. While their conditions are certainly complicated, they can be effectively treated and with help, people can gain control over both conditions, using one comprehensive treatment program.
A Common Condition
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a remarkable number of people in the United States have dual diagnoses. For example, the NIDA reports that people with an antisocial disorder, mood disorder or conduct disorder are about twice as likely to develop a drug use disorder, when compared to people who don’t have these mental health issues. Some specific types of mental illnesses are also very closely tied to severe cases of addiction. A statistic from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health demonstrates this point quite nicely. Here, researchers found that about 1.5 percent of veterans 18 or older had co-occurring substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders. This link might be best described as one forged through stress. While in combat, these solders were exposed to intense stress, and perhaps even pathological fear. As a result, they developed anxiety disorders or mood disorders, and perhaps developed addiction issues as they attempted to keep their stress under control. The addiction and the mental illness went hand in hand. For many, this is the path taken toward a dual diagnosis.
Research conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests that about one in 20 American adults 18 and older had a severe mental illness, but only about 40 percent of these people received help for mental illness. Many of these people also had substance abuse disorders, and didn’t receive help for those issues either. As more and more statistics like this are coming to light, more programs are being developed that could provide real help. For example, many addiction treatment programs offer therapies that:
- Screen for mental illness
- Educate patients on what mental illnesses are
- Provide therapies to help patients control mental illness
- Outline how mental illnesses are exacerbated by addictions
These treatment programs can be of immense help to people who have dual diagnosis concerns. In these programs, they may be able to truly understand their motivations to abuse substances, and as a result, they might be able to stop abusing those substances and get appropriate help for their mental health issues. With this assistance, a whole new way of living may open up.
Not all programs provide dual diagnosis assistance, however. In fact, there are some rehab programs that still focus on treating the substance abuse issue as an isolated event, hoping that the mental illness will resolve when the person’s addiction has improved. In order to ensure a more effective therapy, patients should ensure that their programs really do provide dual diagnosis services. At Axis, we offer a structured program for dual diagnosis clients, and we’re happy to answer questions about what makes our program different than conventional addiction treatment programs. Please contact us with any questions you might have.