Finding the right kind of help to recover from substance abuse demands the right diagnosis. Sometimes, however, pinpointing the problem can be easier said than done. In more complicated cases, a person can suffer from more than one disease concurrently, also called comorbidity. When those diagnoses include psychological conditions and alcohol or drug addiction, it is a dual diagnosis.
The majority of the time, the mental disorder will show up first, and substance abuse then follows in an attempt to cope with the initial issue. Some mental disorders leave people more vulnerable to alcohol or drug abuse; for example, somebody suffering from antisocial personality disorder is nearly sixteen percent more likely to turn to substances in order to self-medicate.
In time, self-medicating behavior can create a dependency on the user’s substance of choice. In some situations, though, someone may have substance abuse problems first and develop specific behaviors of a psychological disease such as increased anger or manic episodes after.
One tough question to answer about dual diagnosis is how to determine the initial problem. The difficulty posed in diagnosing and treating instances of comorbidity is the shared symptoms of different problems. Usually, what a physician needs is for the patient to undergo withdrawal from alcohol or drugs to find any underlying mental issues.
Most addicts fear the detoxification process itself. It is absolutely essential that all drugs and alcohol are purged from the body before the road to recovery can really begin. There is nothing to fear; under medical supervision, a user is administered small doses of controlled medications in order to relieve some of the intense pain and sometimes danger linked to quitting substances. Thankfully, under the right supervision, the process is far less traumatic and physically challenging than it can be without the right help.
In cases of dual diagnosis, once the detox is complete, it is necessary that the individual be treated for both substance abuse and psychological condition. For both psychological and substance abuse diagnoses, group therapy is usually recommended. Those new to sobriety are encouraged to use programs like narcotics anonymous in re-learning how to productively and purposefully function without addiction. For psychiatric problems, support groups can be really helpful.
Other therapies can help individuals figure out how to communicate more clearly or express their feelings in healthy ways. Depending on the psychological disorder, an individual may be prescribed different medications in conjunction for a more comprehensive recovery. Where recovery happens, whether in a hospital or treatment facility or at home, completely depends on the individual.
Dual diagnosis is difficult, not only for the diagnosed individual but for the family and friends of the individual. It’s important to learn how to be supportive without enabling your loved one. Enabling includes any behavior that allows someone with substance abuse problems to maintain their addiction; ignoring a husband or sister borrowing cash to buy drugs or alcohol can be just as counterproductive as giving him/her their substance of choice directly.
It’s also important to remain supportive, warm, and understanding as opposed to being cold or seemingly alienated. Most importantly, with the right encouragement, a friend or family member can become a driving force toward serious positive change for someone dealing with a dual diagnosis.