Dual Diagnosis Treatment at AspenRidge Recovery

Nationwide, around 7.9 million people struggle with co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnoses. The amount of patients admitted to treatment centers for substance abuse and received a co-occurring disorder diagnosis rose from 12% to 16% over the course of six years.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill conducted a survey on the substances used by 14 to 18 year olds who attended treatment between 2009 and 2013 in Denver, Colorado.

The following substances were used by teenagers who received a co-occurring disorder diagnosis during treatment:

  • Alcohol - 40%
  • Cannabis - 39%
  • Amphetamines (methamphetamines, prescription amphetamines, etc.) - 11%
  • Cocaine - 11%
  • Opioids (heroin, prescription painkillers, benzodiazepines, etc.) - 12%

Additionally, both the youth and adult populations showed higher percentages of binge alcohol and illicit substance use compared to the general populations in the United States.

What is a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis?

A co-occurring disorder, also referred to in the past as dual diagnoses, is the presence of both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder in an individual. Whether the mental illness triggers the substance abuse or the substance abuse triggers the mental illness does not matter. As long as an individual simultaneously experiences both substance use disorder and a mental health disorder, they are diagnosed with a dual diagnosis.

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

There is no specific requirement for the type of mental illness experienced to qualify for a co-occurring disorder. Those with dual diagnoses experience a wide range of mental health disorders, such as:

  • Mood Disorders
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Oppositional Defiance Disorder

Additionally, the addiction can be to any number of substances; the only requirement is that they have a substance use disorder. Substance use disorder refers to individuals in whom their substance use causes a significant impairment or distress in their ability to function or live their daily life. Whether the individual relies on alcohol or marijuana, or harder drugs such as cocaine, hallucinogens, amphetamines, or opiates, they qualify for a dual diagnosis.

Again, individuals with a dual diagnosis may either experience the mental illness or the substance abuse first, and one leads to another.

Both mental illness and substance abuse affect the way people behave and feel, both physically and mentally.

Co-occurring disorders are difficult to deal with alone, especially without the assistance of medical professionals. Those who live with dual diagnoses and do not receive treatment often find the problem worsening as time progresses.

Do dual diagnoses or co-occurring disorders always refer to mental illness and substance abuse?

Yes, when an individual is diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, they have both a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. The mental illness could refer to any number of mental illnesses, including problems such as anorexia and bulimia.

Compulsive gambling and hypersexual disorder, though often considered addictions, are actually mental health disorders.

These behaviors are commonly associated with substance abuse and are also considered co-occurring disorders.

The diagnosis of a co-occurring disorder is a general term describing any number of mental health issues and substance addictions. Someone with ADHD may find that marijuana helps them to slow down a little bit. Those with social anxiety may find that a few glasses of wine or bottles of beer helps them to socialize easier. Many times, gambling addiction and substance use go hand in hand, especially with alcohol and cocaine use.

Regardless of the mental illness diagnosis or substance of choice, any combination of mental health disorders and substance abuse is considered a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.

What are the causes of co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses?

Though we are making progress, there are still stigmas surrounding mental health disorders in our nation. Due to the stigmatization of mental illness, many choose to struggle alone as opposed to getting help. This can be incredibly dangerous, eventually leading to substance abuse or dependence, or even more harmful behaviors.

What causes co-occurring disorders, though? Research has shown both mental illness and substance abuse to have hereditary factors. They are often passed through family lines. When you talk to an alcoholic or addict, many times one or both of their parents, or perhaps a grandparent, was also an alcoholic or addict. Those with mental illness often experience the same thing.

There is also an environmental contribution to dual diagnoses and co-occurring disorders. Many times when parents do not receive help for their own co-occurring disorder, mental illness, or substance dependence, they display these behavioral patterns to their children. When the children grow up, they mimic what they were taught while young and tend to exude these same behaviors.

Traumatizing events can also trigger mental illness and substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders in general. Whether it is a death, sexual trauma, deployment, or some other life-altering event, a mental illness is triggered. When these individuals do not know how to handle the symptoms of the mental illness, they turn to substance abuse to help them cope. Additionally, traumatic events can also trigger substance use which can lead to a mental illness.

Mental illness and substance abuse, as well as co-occurring disorders and dual diagnoses, have both biological and environmental aspects to them. When you are fighting against your biology or your circumstances on your own oftentimes it can be a losing battle. However, with the help of trained medical professionals and therapists, you have the opportunity to fight back against your co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.

Do mental illness encourage substance use, causing a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder?

Every year, almost 1 in 5 Americans, or 42.5 million people, live with a mental illness or mental health disorder. Many of these individuals who experience mental health issues either do not seek treatment or are unable to afford it. Living with an untreated mental illness is difficult. Handling depression, anxiety, ADHD, or any other number of disorders without help is exhausting and isolating.

When there is no help from a medical professional, these individuals with a mental health disorder often turn to self-medication. People with mental health issues are more likely than their counterparts to use substances like drugs and alcohol. Recall that 7.9 million people, or nearly 20% of those with a mental illness, have a dual diagnosis.

Oftentimes these individuals will drink to help them socialize or smoke to overcome their depression.

It seems innocent enough in the beginning as the substances often help them to socialize or manage their day to day life. However, substance use can quickly spiral down into substance abuse or substance dependence, compounding the mental illness.

Substance use may seem to help in the beginning but with prolonged use it tends to worsen the problem. Heavy substance use comes with its own set of side effects and when you combine them with those of a mental illness, the issue is magnified.

Symptoms of the mental illness are often intensified, causing those struggling with depression to feel even more depressed, or those with anxiety to have heightened anxiety. Substance use may seem like a way to manage symptoms in the beginning but soon the symptoms are even more unmanageable than they were to begin with.

This also means that sometimes it is substance dependence or abuse that causes the mental illness. Those who depend on drugs and alcohol often find themselves irritated, agitated, angry, depressed, or unable to socialize without the help of a substance. These symptoms can develop into depression, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or any other number of mental illnesses.

The issue of which problem causes which is determined on a case by case basis; every individual is different. Not everyone's experience with co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses is the same.

How do I know if I am living with a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis?

To find out whether you are living with a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, you can do a quick self-examination. Do you struggle with a mental illness such as depression, a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder, or other, whether or not it is professionally diagnosed?

What about your substance use? Are you dealing with a substance use disorder? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you find that your use of substances has impacted your life in some way, shape or form?
  • Do you use greater amounts of substances or for longer periods of time than you originally intended to?
  • Have you skipped out on or stopped showing up to work because of your use?
  • Do you need to get drunk or high in order to socialize with friends or family?
  • Do you continue to use or drink even if it is impacting relationships with friends or family?
  • Do you skip out on social engagements in order to get drunk or high?
  • When you aren't using, do you find you are either thinking about using or craving the drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you developed a tolerance to your substance of choice?

If you are honest with yourself, it is quite easy to determine whether or not your substance use is an issue in your life. With a bit of self-appraisal and honesty you can see if your substance use is impacting you negatively. You may not have gone to the hospital, to the psych ward, or to jail, but your substance use can still be a problem.

Mental illnesses are a bit more difficult to self-diagnose and doing so can be dangerous. It is best to seek professional help when trying to decide whether or not you have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Set up an appointment with your primary care physician or therapist and discuss what you feel is going on in your life. They will be able to help you find the resources you need in order to find a path to wellness.

How can AspenRidge Recovery help me recover from my co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis?

If you are living with a co-occurring disorder, you likely feel very alone or isolated. When you have a mental illness, especially one like depression or social anxiety, oftentimes you find yourself spending time alone. Once you add substance abuse to the mix, it can become an incredibly dark period of your life in a quick span of time.

Once you have sat down with a doctor and determined the presence of a dual diagnosis, you and your doctor may have determined that finding treatment is the best course of action. Getting help from a certified treatment center for your co-occurring disorder may be one of the best decisions you ever make. Though it feels impossible, you have the ability to get a handle on and recover from your mental illness and substance use disorder.

If you are seeking assistance or treatment for your co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, AspenRidge Recovery can help.

You do not have to deal with your mental illness and substance abuse on your own anymore. We have a program devoted specifically to those living with dual diagnoses, with a dedicated team of staff members trained to help you learn to manage and recover from your co-occurring disorder.

Many facilities treat mental illness or substance abuse (one or the other) but the treatment of co-occurring disorders is still relatively new. However, due to the large amount of people living with both, it is imperative that treatment centers address dual diagnosis.

AspenRidge Recovery treats co-occurring disorders through a combination of individual, group, and family therapy with a holistic approach. By using a holistic approach to therapy, our treatment teams look at you as an entire person, rather than just at your mental illness or substance abuse. When you are treated as a whole person you can better approach your struggles.

The facility operates on an outpatient basis, providing treatment for a few hours per day and allowing participants to go home at the end of the session. Through treatment, you will develop a network of peers striving after the same goals as you.

At AspenRidge Recovery you will never be seen as a statistic; we work with you to provide a better way of living. You are no longer alone.