Dual Diagnosis: The Most Common Co-Occurring Health Issues in Addiction

An Overview of Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is defined as two or more co-existing conditions in a single patient. In terms of addiction, there are certain mental health disorders that seem to make regular appearances in cases of dual diagnosis. These conditions, which are mostly mood and anxiety disorders, may complicate or even worsen a person?s chances of addiction recovery if left untreated during the rehabilitation process.


How Common is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis crossover infographicThe idea that substance users may also be struggling with a co-occurring mental health problem may seem far-fetched, but actually, it?s not uncommon. According to SAMHSA?s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), roughly 18% of adults 18 and older in the United States were found to have some sort of mental health condition. The survey also found that more than 8% of American adults in the same age group had a substance abuse disorder. The overlap between these two groups was almost 8 million people, meaning that roughly 2.5% of the 2014 U.S. population was recorded as having both a mental disorder and substance addiction at the same time.


Determining Dual Diagnosis in Cases of Addiction

Both mental health disorders and substance addiction are known to develop in response to a number of biological and environmental factors. Unfortunately, since both types of disorders share many of the same factors? like genetic susceptibility and environmental factors? it can be difficult to determine whether or not a substance user?s symptoms are attributed only to their addiction. Additionally, it?s entirely possible for a pre-existing mental disorder to contribute to the development of a substance addiction and vice versa.


The Most Frequently Seen Examples of Dual Diagnosis

Cocaine Addiction and Anxiety Disorders

Cocaine is an illicit stimulant designed to make users feel energized, enraptured and powerful. With continued use, however, users may start to experience symptoms pointing to the development of an anxiety disorder. These symptoms often include paranoia, distrust of others, and even the development of violent tendencies or behaviors.

These and other symptoms of certain anxiety disorders might be hard to detect since most of them are also known side effects of cocaine use. So, while the symptoms might subside for those who sought help through addiction treatment, if an anxiety disorder has not been properly diagnosed, the lingering damage may trigger a relapse in cocaine use.


Alcoholism and Anti-Social Personality Disorder

Alcohol abuse is one of the most common forms of addiction found in cases of dual diagnosis. It?s a substance abuse disorder that has been frequently linked to conditions like depression, anxiety, and even the misuse of other substances. However, most cases of dual diagnosis involving alcoholism also involve anti-social personality disorder (ASPD), a condition characterized by the disregard of other people that garners more than 200,000 cases per year.

Alcoholism and ASPD are two conditions that exacerbate one another when they co-exist in a patient. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has determined that ASPD is 21 more likely to appear in those with alcoholism than those without. Additionally, ASPD has been found to be a potential contributing factor to the initial development of alcoholism, as it can start to affect teens as young as 14. Since the two disorders tend to occur early in life, it?s not unusual to think that they could co-exist in a case of addiction dual diagnosis.


Opioids and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress syndrome, more recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a condition found in individuals who regularly face stressful triggers after having experienced some sort of trauma. Some of the worst symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares and night terrors, and suicidal thoughts. This syndrome affects 8 in every 100 people and is often linked to substance abuse. It?s theorized that suffers of PTSD rely on drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms? and this is especially true for opioid abuse. (Read more about emotional trauma leading to PTSD)

PTSD and opioid addiction are two conditions that represent one of the most vicious cycles in dual diagnosis. In fact, it?s not unusual for the symptoms of PTSD to get exponentially worse during opioid withdrawal, especially since opiate withdrawal include things like paranoia and alertness.

This indisputable link between PTSD and opioid abuse was confirmed in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA). In it, researchers found that nearly half of all opiate abusers in inpatient recovery were also receiving treatment for PTSD.


Stigmatization and Other Issues Involving Co-Occurring Disorders

Dual diagnosis treatmentWhile there is an abundance of evidence supporting the probability of dual diagnosis, treating it is another issue entirely. Those who suffer from mental health issues and those who face addiction are both, even separately, stigmatized by society at large. This is mostly because a vast number of people still falsely believe that 1) those who abuse substances lack any morals and 2) those with mental health disorders have limited inhabitation and, as a result, are dangerous.

While these stigmas have been steadily decreasing in recent years, the lingering misconceptions evoke feelings of shame and fear among people with co-occurring disorders, preventing them from seeking and receiving help. This level of cultural rejection can prevent people with dual diagnoses from building relationships, finding stable work, or otherwise providing for themselves. In order for us to make any progress in the treatments of both addiction and mental health, we need to eliminate the stigmas surrounding them.


How Is Dual Diagnosis Treated?

In cases of dual diagnosis, it?s imperative that both sides of the condition are treated. If only one issue is treated over the other, the user in recovery is put at a higher risk of relapse. This is because the continued symptoms of the untreated disorder may prompt the continuance of the other. To effectively treat the dual diagnosis of an addiction and a mental health disorder, it?s highly recommended that users looking to recover utilize inpatient programs to do so.


Detox and Inpatient Care for Dual Diagnosis Addiction Recovery

Addiction treatment plans always vary depending on the person, the addiction, and any co-occurring conditions. Most inpatient rehab facilities that offer dual diagnosis programs will help their patients build individualized treatment plans. No two plans are ever the same, but the most popular methods of treating patients with co-occurring disorders involve detox and individualized medical attention.



Detox is almost always the first step to addiction treatment. Inpatient detoxification, however, is generally more effective than outpatient detox and is significantly safer for the patient than detoxing at home. The greatest benefit of inpatient detoxification is the round-the-clock assistance from trained medical staff. Through tapering the substance to lessen the effects of withdrawal, inpatient detox is one of the best means of treating the addiction side of a dual diagnosis. (Read More: What is detox like?)


Individualized Medical Attention

Almost all inpatient rehabilitation centers offer medical and mental health care 24/7. By receiving individual therapy, staff and peer support, any necessary medication and other health services, those who with a dual diagnosis can address underlying causes of their addiction and treat their mental health issues alongside it.


Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs at The Treatment Center

At TTC Care, we understand that treating both sides of a dual diagnosis is essential to long-lasting health and sobriety. At our residential treatment center, you will have regular access to a staff of experts in both addiction and mental health, giving you the best possible chance of a full, life-long recovery. If you or someone you care about is suffering from both substance addiction and mental health issues, call us today at (844) 201-3136 to speak with one of your representatives about developing a personalized treatment plan.

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