Dual Diagnosis Rehabilitation Centers: Treating the Root Cause of Addiction

dual diagnosis rehab facilities

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Not all drug rehabilitation programs are the same. Most rehab centers address the emotional and physical aspects of drug use and withdrawal. Yet, many do not fully tend to the needs of individuals with underlying mental health conditions that drive their self-destructive behavior.

There is a definite connection between mental illness and substance abuse. People with mental health problems are more likely to use addictive substances such as alcohol, cocaine, and cigarettes. It is not uncommon for a person suffering from social anxiety to turn to alcohol for comfort. An individual with panic attacks may begin to self-medicate and end up becoming addicted to Valium or another benzodiazepine. Someone with low motivation may begin using crystal meth or cocaine for an improved drive.

All drug and alcohol rehab centers specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of addictive behaviors, but dual diagnosis treatment centers integrate substance abuse recovery with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, and other related disorders that fuel addiction. Read on to learn how dual diagnosis drug rehab could benefit you or someone you love.

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Table of Contents

Rehab for Dual Diagnosis: An Overview

Overcoming alcoholism or drug abuse is a herculean task for most addicts. Yet, many people who are struggling with substance abuse also have co-occurring mental illnesses, making the recovery even more challenging. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost 8 million Americans have a dual diagnosis. What is a dual diagnosis? The presence of two or more disorders in one person is known as co-occurring disorders, comorbidity, or dual diagnosis. The presence of co-occurring psychological issues makes recovery from addiction more challenging, but not impossible Help is available at specialized dual diagnosis treatment facilities.

When someone with a substance abuse issue also has a mental health disorder, it is important to enroll in an addiction treatment program that addresses both problems. Untreated mental health issues can derail the relapse prevention plan. Untreated substance abuse issues can make treatment for the mental illness ineffective. Dual diagnosis rehab programs are designed to address both disorders concurrently for a long-lasting recovery.

Rehabilitation centers that focus on substance abuse treatment alone may not be able to adequately tackle the underlying cause of the addiction. Comprehensive drug rehab programs address the various cause-and-effect relationships between psychological issues and addiction.

Mental Health Issues and Addiction: Is There a Connection?

There is an undeniable connection between mental illness and addictive behaviors. Surveys show that about 45 percent of Americans seeking substance abuse treatment have a co-occurring mental illness. It is often impossible to establish the direction of the relationship between the substance abuse disorder and the psychiatric illness. In other words, identifying the causative illness is not always possible. In some people, the use of illicit drugs or excessive alcohol leads to changes in the brain which give rise to secondary psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. In others, pre-existing or subclinical psychological issues, such as anxiety or psychosis, lead the person to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Recovering addicts often experience a sense of hopelessness, which can be worsened by the presence of mental health conditions. The mind of a person suffering from untreated mental illness may be unable to perceive what is in their best interest. Even the most supportive family and friends sometimes mistake psychiatric symptoms for a personal failing or self-indulgence. Loved ones may not know how to deal with conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, or ADHD.

Dual diagnosis rehabilitation centers take into account the specific problems of each recovering addict and develop a customized treatment plan for long-term recovery. The staff at these centers reach out to family, friends, and others in the addict’s support network to help them understand what the person is going through. This improved awareness makes the journey to sobriety easier for both the addict and their loved ones. A better understanding of the causative factors of addiction and concomitant therapy for mental health problems helps prevent relapse.

Types of Mental Health Disorders Treated at Dual Diagnosis Drug Rehab Centers

About half the people admitted to addiction treatment centers have a comorbidity or dual diagnosis. People with addiction issues are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety compared to people without substance abuse problems. This makes dual diagnosis drug rehab all the more important. Here are some of the mental disorders treated at dual diagnosis rehab facilities:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, binge eating, bulimia nervosa)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychotic illnesses (schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia)

A failure on the part of family, friends, and primary care physicians to recognize and treat the above-mentioned psychological conditions often contributes to the failure of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Specialized treatment is necessary for these co-existing mental health issues for addiction recovery to be successful in the long-term. Proper and timely intervention is critical for relapse prevention. Medical personnel at dual diagnosis drug rehabilitation centers are trained to accurately diagnose and treat these co-occurring psychiatric conditions.

Dual Diagnosis Rehab: An Integrated Treatment Approach

According to SAMHSA, the most common cause of drug or alcohol relapse is an untreated underlying psychological condition. Substance abuse and mental health problems exacerbate each other and it is often impossible to separate the two. The complexity of interrelated symptoms means that diagnosis is often difficult and treatment challenging. Treatment is effective and long-lasting when both disorders are treated simultaneously.

Dual diagnosis refers to the integrated approach to drug rehabilitation that focuses on psychological disorders that may be contributing to drug or alcohol dependence. Unrecognized or untreated mental disorders often complicate substance abuse. Over time, addictive behaviors lead to the development of additional psychological problems. An integrated treatment approach with concurrent therapy for both disorders ensures that the interplay between addiction and psychiatric illnesses is put to an end. To this end, comprehensive drug rehabilitation programs use best practices, evidence-based approaches, and established tools.

Treatment facilities use a number of different therapeutic and pharmaceutical interventions to treat the co-existing conditions. Some of the modalities employed include:

  • Medications (antipsychotic agents, mood stabilizers, antidepressants)
  • Behavioral therapies and counseling (cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy)
  • Supportive healthcare (nutrition, exercise)

In some individuals, the psychological condition becomes evident only after therapy for addiction has commenced. For example, a concurrent mental illness may become evident during detox. This is because the presence of addictive substances in the body can distort the presentation of mental health symptoms. In such cases, medical professionals at dual diagnosis alcohol rehab and drug addiction treatment centers are trained to modify and adjust the recovery program accordingly.

Duration of Dual Diagnosis Drug Rehabilitation Programs

How long does dual diagnosis treatment take? There is no quick fix for alcohol or drug dependence. When there are additional mental health issues, therapy takes longer to complete and requires care and patience. The duration of stay at an inpatient rehabilitation center is influenced by the need for specialized treatment and the amount of outpatient care and follow-up warranted. These rehab centers do not usually follow the traditional 12-step recovery protocol because of the additional problems causing the addictive behaviors.

The duration of dual diagnosis rehab programs depends on the specific disorders that are present in a person and the obstacles to recovery. Inpatient facilities typically offer programs ranging in duration from 1 to 3 months with additional follow-up therapy which can last for up to one year. The aftercare counseling, group sessions, and community activities conducted at these drug rehab facilities can vary. Individuals with psychiatric disorders face additional obstacles to successful addiction recovery. For this reason, participation in a follow-up outpatient program is critical.

Program Structure at Dual Diagnosis Rehab Centers

Recovering addicts can receive dual diagnosis addiction treatment at both inpatient and outpatient facilities. The programs at dual diagnosis rehab facilities are designed for medically-assisted detox along with management of mental illness symptoms. This requires a careful balance of pharmaceutical agents and behavioral therapies. This is often only possible at residential drug rehabilitation centers that specialize in dual diagnosis. The pharmaceutical management of addicts with psychiatric conditions is complex. Some of the medications prescribed to cope with emotional dysfunction may impair the perception of reality or sense of well-being. They can worsen the sense of hopelessness or reduce motivation to seek treatment for substance abuse.

Why do some people become addicted to alcohol or drugs? The underlying motivation for substance abuse is different. In some people, this could be depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other psychological problems. During intake at dual diagnosis rehab, a team of medical professionals with specialized training in psychiatric illnesses works one-on-one with clients. This ensures accurate diagnosis of all psychological conditions that could be contributing to addiction. From there, an individualized therapy plan is developed. Therefore, these treatment centers provide much-needed services to addicts with multiple underlying conditions influencing their drug addiction.

Finding Treatment Facilities for Dual Diagnosis Rehab

How to choose the best dual diagnosis drug rehab? The most effective rehabilitation facility for co-occurring addiction and psychiatric problems depends on a number of factors, including the substance being abused, the duration and frequency of use, as well as the type and severity of the mental health condition. Cost is another concern for most recovering addicts. Although treatment at such rehabilitation facilities is often expensive, insurance coverage is available, at least partially, for this type of addiction treatment. The cost varies according to the duration of the program, the level of care, and the amenities offered. Some facilities and programs that offer integrated dual diagnosis treatment are listed below:

  • New Method Wellness, San Juan Capistrano, California
  • Beachway Therapy Center, Boynton Beach, Florida
  • Clarity Way, Hannover, Pennsylvania
  • Journey Healing Centers, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Promises Austin, Austin, Texas
  • The Ranch, Nunnelly, Tennessee
  • The Rose of Lakeview, Jacksonville, Florida (Women-Only Dual Diagnosis Rehab)
  • The Star of Lakeview, Jacksonville, Florida (Men-Only Rehabilitation for Co-Occurring Disorders)
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View Sources
  1. https://www.nber.org/digest/apr02/w8699.html


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  • Tonja
    My daughter in law has changed so much she a different person than she was when first met …she was raped and is so angry now..its awful even dad is baffled..she scares me because she just snaps..and its like thecevil sister..she has medicaid in virginia and she definately needs help with mental issues and shes addicted to several different drugs..meth suboxone zanax and heroin..i love her but i cant deal with this because you ferl helpless is there a place she can get intensive treatment and im afraid my sons going through it to…his was ptsd and trauma and hating his self im so worried about him to a just wish they could find somewhere they could go for 30-60 days ..can you point me in the right directions or advise..im scare for them..
  • Brian Braisted
    I’m in Maine. I’m 52 Mental illness and drug addiction diagnoses. I’m homeless with out insurance . I’m currently on probation. I am only working when I can due to my addiction and mental health issues. Can you help me get into a free program and get the help I need and now want to be able to live a sober life with help dealing with my mental health issues. Ptsd adhd ocd I will go today if I had resources to help me with my opioid addiction. Read another overdose obituary in the Bangor daily news today due to addiction.I have been in a number of outpatient treatments. Looking for inpatient detox of opioid addiction mental health resources for aftercare. I’m hoping today is the 1st day if the rest if my life.
  • Scott
    My son is in need of this type treatment 30 yr. old has 10 yr. old son no ins. no job no home mom passed a couple yr ago and i wasn’t aware of how badly he was until he and son moved in here I can’t handle him as I’m disabled and he has mentioned hurting himself just last night and thats not the first please help in SC area so distance is important