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Why Treatment Practices Of Dual Diagnosis Needs An Overhaul

The Implication Of Dual Diagnosis In Treatment Practices

Dual diagnosis is a condition in which two disorders occur simultaneously within an individual. Most often, it’s a combination of a mental disorder such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder coupled with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling. For many years, the standard of care for treatment followed a sequential path. For example, an individual suffering from both depression and alcoholism would first receive counseling solely for alcoholism. When alcoholism gave way to sobriety, treatment for depression would follow.

This historical treatment method has proved to be inadequate and ineffective. A person might be able to overcome one condition only for the effect of the second disorder to be exacerbated. There is a need for change as indications for dual diagnosis are rising significantly. In fact, research shows that over 50% of people in the United States who are diagnosed with a mental illness will also be diagnosed with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. With such figures and an ineffective standard of care, there has been a need for overhaul in treatment practices.

The need for an integrated approach

A new evidence-based treatment method known as the Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment (IDDT) is highly recommended in such cases. It promotes individualized care for each patient and lays equal importance to treating both the addictive and mental disorder in conjunction. The process involves meeting small goal-based milestones that slowly progress to achieve results such as sobriety and the ability to live independently. In doing so, this approach  ensures reduction in relapse, reduces incarceration, and most importantly eases pressure on medical resources. To ensure effectiveness, treatment entails therapy sessions which are administered by the same staff-members and there is no change of location. The underlying concept is to use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to reshape and retrain the brain back into its healthy state. To do this, therapy sessions are required which help patients learn to cope with their illnesses and learn how to change unhealthy patterns of thinking.

Choosing the correct rehab center

Special rehabilitation centers are the best proven way to treat co-occurring disorders. These centers have both inpatient and outpatient programs and the right program depends on the individual. Patients who lack a strong support system and may be exposed to the environment contributing to substance abuse are usually admitted to inpatient rehab programs. Individuals at an inpatient center live at the center typically between one to three months until rehabilitation is complete. Such strict rules in the latter are meant for individuals which require an intensive intervention to keep them under the watchful eye of trained professionals at all times. However, patients at both centers have access to support groups and have the ability to mingle with like-minded individuals on their path to recovery.

Treatment length and aftercare

As each individual’s case is unique, length of treatment can vary significantly. As an estimation, it generally takes 1-6 months for a substance use disorder to be treated but a mental disorder may require a lifetime of treatment and may never be entirely overcome. What’s important to keep in mind is not to pull out patients from treatment prematurely as it can reverse progress made so far. In fact, with the weight of failure thrown in, doing so will only aggravate the situation further with people falling back to their old habits even more aggressively. Therefore, even after treatment ceases, be mindful of the need for aftercare. Substance abuse or mental health issues can spring back to life at any time without notice, so it’s recommended to follow-up with counseling, support groups, and medication as needed.

Considering trends and data among mental health and substance abuse treatment seekers, it’s become increasingly common for both disorders to be present within an individual. Therefore, medical practices must adapt and medical professionals be cross-trained to help those with dual diagnosis achieve lasting recovery.

More Stories By Harry Trott

Harry Trott is an IT consultant from Perth, WA. He is currently working on a long term project in Bangalore, India. Harry has over 7 years of work experience on cloud and networking based projects. He is also working on a SaaS based startup which is currently in stealth mode.