Long-term Drug Rehab Helps Dual Diagnosis

Most people battling substance abuse have underlying psychological or behavioral challenges that are fuel to the fire of their substance abuse. In other words, the mental health diagnosis is a dual diagnosis along with the substance abuse disorder diagnosis. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that over 50 percent of drug abusers and almost 40 percent of alcoholics also have a mental disorder. These disorders include depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder, ADD, and schizophrenia, among others. And, long-term drug rehab, with an emphasis on excellent aftercare, is ideal for dual diagnosis patients.

Even though the separate addictions seem to have their own set of behaviors, they are often linked to the same underlying problem. People often use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for an undiagnosed mental illness or trauma that has been experienced and never dealt with or dealt with inappropriately. Recognizing this is important in effectively treating addiction. Most addictions specialists agree that addressing the illnesses sepearately is less effective. Why should an individual stop drinking before they seek treatment for their mental illness?

Daniel’s Story

He didn’t start out trying to ruin his life with addiction. He just kept finding himself in situations he didn’t know how to handle. Frustration leads to anxiety, stress and depression. He went to the doctor where he was diagnosed with garden-variety anxiety. He received a prescription for Xanax and sertraline for anxiety. The doctor did not send him to behavioral therapy or counseling to address the anxiety or uncover additional real issues. He took the Xanax, which helped a lot. But, the sertraline seemed useless. Daniel did not understand that the Xanax was a short-term crutch medication to use for a few weeks while the sertraline started to kick in.

But, the Xanax started to fade, and the anxiety crept back in. Alcohol plus Xanax helped, and so did taking more Xanax. Within weeks it has become a habit, and within a few months, it was an addiction. He was hooked on Xanax and alcohol. The stress, anxiety and depression were creeping back in. He went to his doctor for help. After all, his life was upside down again. With his anxiety, he was back at square one. But now, the doctor’s referring him to an addiction specialist and long-term drug rehab. A program Daniel could’ve avoided if the treatment for his anxiety would’ve been complete and ongoing.

Where To Start

Too frequently patients have no other option but starting long-term drug rehab, often for a combined drug and alcohol addictions. The process begins with capturing an excellent medical history—the stories about how a person started to use and the substances they abused. Then detoxification is the first significant hurdle patients must pass. After that, the best course of care is ongoing long-term drug rehab—some of it in residential rehabilitation. This post-detox time spent in treatments such as psychotherapy, medications, self-help and support groups is the critical time to aggressively learn about the behavioral issues that were driving the patient to drink or use other illicit substances. If depression or anxiety plagued their life, this is the time to work with a psychiatrist to find a suitable medication mix. It is a prime opportunity to create an ongoing dialogue with a therapist. It is the perfect time to educate family, friends, and your social circles about how to best support the recovering addict as they also treat their behavioral conditions.

Getting ongoing treatment for the underlying issues of mental illness and trauma is crucial for a patient to get on the road to a successful ongoing recovery. Without proper treatment this issue will persist and affect every significant facet of life, diluting any coping skills the patient learns. Because dual diagnosis issues take time to navigate, patients do well when they consider the next months and years of their lives as continuous long-term drug rehab. As they return to work, they’ll be making progress in their job as well as in their treatment program.

Dual Diagnosis and Self Medicating

Many patients begin drug use as a way of self-medicating, often not understanding that they have a mental health condition or not realizing the severity of the issue.  A reported 70 percent of people with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes, theorized to be a coping mechanism to help them remain calm. These include conditions such as anxiety, stress and depression. For instance, those with depression may use drugs as a way to stimulate their reward pathways.

There is an ongoing debate among professionals as to whether some drugs can actually cause mental health issues. Marijuana users, for instance, may develop schizophrenia if they possess a particular genetic profile. Cocaine and other stimulants can cause such symptoms as sleep disorders, panic attacks, anxiety and mania. So, while figuring out the cause or effect is not so critical, treating both sides of the dual diagnosis equation is vital.
The debate on drugs as well as the way to treat the addictions will be ongoing for years to come. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a cost of more than $740 billion to our nation related to lost work productivity, crime and health care due to the abuse of illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco. According to NIH, drug use among adolescents and high school kids appears to be diminishing overall, other than marijuana. Nevertheless, those who are using drugs to cover mental health conditions are at increased risk if they do not receive needed guidance to cope with their situation.

Living The Ongoing Reality of Long-term Drug Rehab

Family and friends can help, but it’s important to involve those who have “been there, done that” and understand that struggle of facing an addiction. When patients continue to attend group therapy, they’ll find those empathetic friends who will know the reality they live. No one has to go through this alone. There are people in recovery groups waiting and more than willing to help. They are also one of your most essential lifelines when a good person faces temptations to use again—when the mental health issues start to rear their ugly heads.

People who live the reality of dual diagnosis will continue to advance and better their lives over an extended period of time. Long-term drug rehab for dual diagnosis is a mindset. Patients won’t get better today, or even next week. But, step by step they’ll see and feel the improvements that living on recovery offers.


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