Dual diagnosis is a term which describes a person facing both a medical/emotional/mental illness along with a substance dependency. When seeking the appropriate drug detox treatment program, it may be necessary to check that the center is able to treat both of the co-existing conditions because not every treatment program is prepared to do so.

Co-existing conditions are a common problem among those dealing with substance abuse. The National Institutes on Mental Health (NIMH) report that substance abuse is accompanied by a co-existing psychiatric condition 60 percent of the time. The government agency further reports that substance abuse accompanies 56 percent of all bipolar cases, 47 percent of all instances of schizophrenia, 32 percent of non-bipolar mood disorders, and 27 percent of cases of anxiety disorder. In total, estimates are that somewhere between 10 to 14 million Americans are living with co-existing substance dependency and at least one other psychiatric/medical condition.

Though the reality of dual diagnosis is well documented, why it occurs is less certain. It may be that people with medical/emotional/mental illness turn to substances like drugs or alcohol in order to self-medicate away their distressing symptoms. On the other hand, if such illnesses have been treated for many years with strong medications, this may have led to chemical dependency.

Drug detox is particularly helpful in separating out potential instances of dual diagnosis. Only after the drug is removed from a person’s body can a truly proper assessment be made based on observation of remaining symptoms. Medically supervised drug detox will handle the process of weaning the body from its dependency in a gentle and knowledgeable manner. A calm, secure and supportive environment make the initial phase of detox as comfortable and anxiety-free as possible. The initial drug detox phase typically lasts one week.

Following the drug detox phase, medical and mental health experts will be able to assess the patient’s overall health. If dual diagnosis is determined, therapies can be initiated which will address both conditions at the same time. Drugs may have damaged the patient’s physical health, therefore rest, proper nutrition and gentle exercise may be prescribed to prepare for the coming stages of recovery.

It is crucial that any co-existing emotional/mental health conditions be properly diagnosed since they may place the drug recovery process at risk for relapse. Those who are struggling under a dual diagnosis will need special attention given to dealing with issues of isolation/loneliness, shame, depression and fear.

Dual diagnoses come in a variety of combinations and require highly individualized treatment plans. Be sure to look for a drug detox and rehab facility that is fully prepared to treat the co-existing conditions which may otherwise hamper the full recovery you seek.


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