Offering insight, information, alternative care and life style coaching with Reiki.
Offering insight, information, alternative care and life style coaching with Reiki.
Addiction & Dual diagnosis, the missing link

Missing the Link: Dual Diagnosis Recovery Programs


The link between mental health disorders and substance abuse is becoming more apparent. About 33% of people who combat a psychiatric disorder also battle substance abuse, and over half the people who are addicted to drugs also have a psychiatric disorder. With a raised awareness comes an increase in ways for victims to treat and cope with their illness.

There is not an order to being diagnosed. It is not clear if substance abuse causes mental health issues or vice versa. Mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder can span over a lifetime and are often misdiagnosed, and in turn patients may not receive sufficient medication or other treatment methods. If their treatment methods are inadequate, it becomes more tempting to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Similarly, substance abuse can trigger or worsen psychiatric symptoms. When mental health disorders and addiction intertwine, it is called co-occurring or dual diagnosis.


Symptoms vary with a co-occurring disorder. These symptoms will depend on the mental illness and the drug of choice. Here are a few that may occur:

  • Feeling stressed, anxious, or angry, possibly causing you to lose your job
  • A history of mental health disorders in your family
  • Trouble kicking feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or guilt, even after attempting sobriety
  • Turning to drugs to escape your problems, elevate your mood or calm yourself down
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Treatment Options

Co-occurring disorders require specified treatment plans. A conventional rehab facility does not always accommodate long-term recovery for patients with mental illness, and customary treatment plans often fall short in meeting needs like resources for overcoming personal obstacles. Each treatment within the dual diagnosis recovery programs need to be specified depending on the needs of the individual. Successful recovery programs should include:

  • Intensive psychological testing
  • Peer support groups
  • Classes pertaining to life skills and behavioral modification
  • Natural, relaxing therapy options to battle addiction, like yoga, meditation, or acupuncture
  • Spend time with animals. Get a therapy dog or become a dog walker. Being around animals improves our physical and mental health.
  • Supervised detox period
  • Individual therapy and analysis

Other factors to keep in mind:

  • The need for a qualified, cross-trained staff: It is necessary for the therapist to be equally versed in both addiction and mental health therapy.
  • Give it time: Time is needed to assess the source of addiction, learn to deal with mental illness, and prepare for life after treatment. While some patients can significantly improve in a matter of months, others may need at least 12 months to recover.
  • The one-stop shop approach: The concept of containing several services and treatment options under one roof is a new approach.
  • The positive outlook: In therapy, patients are encouraged and equipped to confront their problems in order to readjust back into daily life.


To increase the chances of recovery, it is vital that the patient be diagnosed correctly. Because some symptoms of addiction or withdrawal symptoms often mimic symptoms of a mental illness, careful screening for multiple conditions is needed for adequate treatment.