A dual diagnosis is the co-existence of a substance abuse problem and a mental health problem. Its conditions take a number of forms, with some disorders directly causing others and complex bi-directional relationships also common. Also known as co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis interactions often require specialized treatment through mental health or drug treatment facilities. Common scenarios include depression and alcoholism, anxiety disorders and Valium abuse, and psychosis caused by methamphetamine use. If you or someone you know is living with a dual diagnosis, it’s important to reach out to a specialized clinic as soon as possible.
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Co-occurring conditions have been linked with a wide range of mental conditions, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and many more. Generally speaking, dual diagnosis cases are more common in people with anxiety disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and depression disorder.
Depression disorder is closely associated with drug abuse and addiction problems, with especially close links between depression and central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as heroin and opioids. Anxiety disorders are closely related to benzodiazepine abuse and dependence, with benzo drugs often prescribed for anxiety disorders.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 45 percent of people with an addiction problem are also living with a co-occurring mental health condition. According to a separate study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, roughly 9 million adult Americans are living with a dual diagnosis, the majority of who do not receive adequate levels of treatment. Only 7.4 percent of people receive treatment for both disorders, with 60 percent receiving no treatment for either condition.
People living with a dual diagnosis face a number of social challenges, with homelessness rates much higher than the general population and poverty levels also high. People with co-occurring conditions are twice as likely to be living in poverty as people without mental health or substance problems.
Anxiety and panic disorders are common place, with one out of every 75 people in the United States likely to experience a panic disorder at some stage according to Psychology Today. Common symptoms of a panic disorder include dizziness, shaking, sweating, terror, chest pain, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. People who suffer anxiety-related problems often turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication, with the immediate effects of psychoactive substances able to relieve some of the symptoms of anxiety.
According to a study in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 10-40 percent of people living with panic disorder also experience problems with alcohol, with10-20 percent of people living with drug abuse problems. While people might be able to experience temporary relief from their condition, the long-term abuse of drugs and alcohol is only likely to exasperate existing problems.
Anxiety disorders are associated with substance abuse in another way, with anxiety patients often prescribed benzodiazepine drugs for their mental condition. The long-term use of benzos can easily lead to physical and psychological dependence, with some people also abusing their medications to experience pronounced sedative and hypnotic effects.
Benzo dependence needs to be carefully treated, with a combination of medication therapy and psychotherapy recommended to break the bonds of addiction. If you or anyone you know is living with benzo problems, it’s important to contact a specialized clinic as soon as possible.
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