Treating Dual Diagnosis during Addiction Rehabilitation
When a patient arrives at addiction rehabilitation, an intense medical evaluation is performed immediately to understand addiction sources and the best course of treatment. Often, addiction occurs in tandem with mental or mood disorders. This is called a dual diagnosis, and usually means that the patient is suffering from anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. Diagnosing and treating these disorders plays a key role in successfully becoming sober.
What is Dual Diagnosis
More often than not, a patient will have anxiety/depression/bipolar disorder and addiction, and need to be treated for both in order to efficiently live a sober lifestyle. This means that they are receiving a dual diagnosis, and will receive care for both.
Addiction and mood disorders coexist for a number of reasons.
- A person may abuse medication they receive for anxiety or depression, leading to addiction.
- Many people self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to ease the symptoms of their mental disorder, which only makes things worse and also leads to addiction.
- The highs and lows of bipolar disorder can make a person go from stable behavior to non-stable behavior within a few minutes.
- People with anxiety will tend to seek downers like alcohol or opiates, while people with depression will go for uppers like cocaine and amphetamines.
The symptoms of these various mood disorders can range from mild to severe and life-altering. People with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder might feel as though they cannot function as a normal part of society without some kind of assistance. Therefore, turning to drugs and alcohol can seem like a reasonable solution, just to get through the day, or get out of bed.
Mental illness unfortunately still holds a stigma in many people’s eyes, which causes an element of shame and resentment to the ones that are suffering. The belief that they are weird, strange, or abnormal can cause people to hide their mental issues, and seek out a way of medicating themselves. For a short time, it may work and give the addict a false sense of security, but inevitably it leads to full blown addiction and destruction and can have devastating consequences.
Self Medication Comes With a High Price
Self-medication is a breeding ground for numerous cases of addiction. Even if someone did go to a doctor to get medicine for their anxiety or depression, the moment they begin to take that medication more than prescribed is when an issue arises. It gets even worse when these kinds of drugs are mixed with alcohol, because combining the two can have a lethal consequence.
Taking drugs and alcohol in large amounts or for a significant amount of time will undoubtedly change the user’s brain chemistry. Their body learns to function with the substance in it, and becomes dependent on it. A person’s brain will begin to recognize the drug in the pleasure receptors of the brain, and it will associate that chemical with survival. It goes without saying that anxiety and depression will manifest itself in an even stronger way when the person cannot obtain their drug of choice. This begins a vicious cycle that is nearly impossible to break without professional treatment, forcing the individual to deal with much more than just their mood disorders. Before ever thinking about self-medicating, it’s essential to evaluate the underlying issues and directly address them with a doctor’s help.
Dual Diagnosis Offers Hope and Relief
Many people may think that turning to substances like alcohol is a better option than taking daily medications to deal with their mood disorder. Or, they may have had a bad experience with a doctor. There are so many methods of treatment available now days that substance abuse should never be an option. If you choose to take the medical route, there are a plethora of different drugs and dosages. Aside from medicine, techniques like meditation, yoga, acupuncture, journaling are helpful. Keeping an overall healthy lifestyle can also greatly reduce the symptoms of mental disorders.
If a patient is concerned with taking a potentially habit-forming prescription medication like Xanax, there are alternatives that exist. Doctors have recently started prescribing Vistaril, an antihistamine, for anxiety. It has similar effects like Xanax or Klonopin on the central nervous system, without the danger of becoming hooked.
Many patients may experience a sense of relief after their mental disorder is diagnosed. They finally receive confirmation that it isn’t their minds playing tricks on them, or something imagined, but a real and diagnosable condition. As treatment for their disorder continues, they may find the cravings and temptations to use drop away drastically.
To prevent relapse and ensure that an addict has the tools they need to stay sober, treating their mental illness is non-negotiable. By addressing both with dual diagnosis, it sets up the patient for long-term success, and not just a temporary solution.