Dual Findings

There are cases where circumstances in an individual’s life can make their behaviors problematic that it greatly affects the life they live. Somehow, substance abuse could possibly be a byproduct of a certain psychiatric disorder. An individual afflicted with an anxiety disorder could also become dependent to oxycontin, which is able to give the person a relaxing feeling. Make sense?

Dual diagnosis is a term which means the co-occurrence of an illness in the mind and problems with substance abused. People who experience this phenomena often face a wide range of psychosocial issues and may experience multiple interacting illnesses. In dual diagnosis, both illnesses may affect the person physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. The two illnesses interact with one another. The illnesses may worsen each other and each disorder predisposes to relapse in the other disease. There are times where the symptoms can go beyond and even mask each other making diagnosis and treatment more difficult.

Several theories have been formulated to explain the relationship between psychiatric disorders and substance abuse problems. Causality theory suggests that certain types of substance abuse can causally lead to mental illness. Findings on the origins of schizophrenia showed that it can also be a result of using cannabis. Self-medication theory adds that individuals with severe mental illness misuse substances in order to relieve a certain set of symptoms and counter the side-effects of antipsychotic medication. Certain studies show that nicotine could be useful for reducing motor side-effects of antipsychotics. Similarly, the alleviation of dysphoria theory suggests that people with severe mental illness commonly feels bad about themselves and that this makes them vulnerable to using psychoactive substances to alleviate these feelings.

Dual diagnosis presents a major problem because most of the time it is only one of the two interacting illnesses is identified. Moreove, the patient tends to be in denial with one of the illnesses. A person diagnosed with a mental disorder may be in denial about the drinking or substance abuse. The other way around could happen. The obvious substance abuse could hide the mental disorder. Therapists, psychiatrists, and professional counselors can have a difficult time identifying both illnesses due to psychiatric symptoms can be masked by alcohol or drug use. Furthermore, alcohol or drug use, or withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs can copy or give the appearance of some psychiatric illnesses. Also, untreated chemical addiction could add to a reoccurrence of psychiatric symptoms, and untreated psychiatric illness could contribute to an alcohol or drug relapse.

One alcoholic from America shared that society can be a problem because alcoholism is not seen as an illness. Moreover, it seemed that they do not realize how ineffective it is to treat one illness but not the other. Medical professionals have the tendency to prescribe antidepressants to their patients without screening them for substance abuse. The addict/alcoholic whose depression is not treated will persist to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Those with depression whose substance abuse is not detected will get sicker because alcohol is a depressant and with every sip they are throwing gasoline on their simmering bipolar. Consequently, it is very hard for these people to find appropriate treatment. Most substance-abuse centers do not accept people with serious psychiatric disorders and many psychiatric centers do not have the expertise with substance abuse.

Treatment of the two disorders should be integrated, not separate, and should be a collaborative decision-making process between the treatment team and the patient.

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