Many addicts learn to live free of their symptoms and stay sober through a mix of outpatient psychiatric care, individual and group therapy, and participation in support groups. Yet other people keep suffering through years of pain caused by repeated relapses despite their efforts to seek help. This can lead to many unsuccessful stays at a treatment center or sober living home. It can also put a lot of strain on relationships, finances, and self-image. In many cases, this is not the fault of the addict alone. It may be in part due to mental issues on top of their addiction that go unrecognized and/or untreated.
The recovery industry calls these co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis. Co-occurring is the preferred term; “dual” diagnosis is misleading because there may be more than two issues present. This can include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, sleep disorders, and more. They can be tricky to diagnose in treatment, because substance abuse or even addiction treatment can mask symptoms of a mental disorder. Substance abuse can also trigger mental disorders that have lain dormant for years, or make existing mental illnesses worse.
Knowledge about how to recognize co-occurring disorders has been spreading. Still, many treatment centers do not understand how they can contribute to substance abuse, or know how to treat them. Some disorders may influence addiction. Many addicts may also turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to “self-medicate” an existing disorder. Some treatment programs believe it is best to avoid the use of any drug while treating addiction. However, for many mental disorders, prescription psychiatric medication is the best solution for treatment. Chronically relapsing addicts suffering from co-occurring disorders often do not receive the treatment they need. Because of the complications caused by their co-occurring disorders, they fail to resolve their addiction.
For similar reasons, trying to treat an addict’s mental disorders without addressing their substance abuse will also end in failure. It can even make one or both problems worse. Medications prescribed can be dangerous if taken alongside alcohol or other drugs, or become addictive themselves. Due to the social taboo of both addiction and mental disorders, people with co-occurring disorders may deny or hide one problem even while seeking treatment for the other. Seeking help is often a last resort rather than their first choice. And even doctors who are aware of a mental patient’s addiction may avoid or ignore the issue because they do not have the knowledge or desire to treat it.
For treatment to be successful, addiction and mental disorders must be treated simultaneously. Focusing on one while ignoring the other is a common cause for relapse. To succeed, both addicts and treatment specialists must be open in discussing co-occurring disorders. There is no one tried and true method for treating them; the right treatment must be determined on an individual basis. Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment programs have been gaining ground in treatment and rehab centers nationwide. There is still a long way to go, but progress is being made.
At Scottsdale Recovery Center, we pride ourselves on our cutting-edge research and treatment for co-occurring disorders. Our team of highly educated doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and staff are very adept at treating co-occurring disorders and our program is one of the top in the country in relapse prevention.
Call Scottsdale Recovery Center today for a free phone consultation and find out for yourself how amazing a life free from addiction can be!
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