Why Addiction Treatment is Hard to Find for People with Co-Occurring Mental Illness

shutterstock 338397683

shutterstock 338397683

We’ve heard of treatment for addiction. We’ve heard of treatment for mental health difficulties. But what happens when a person struggles with both mental health difficulties and a substance abuse problem? As one can imagine, this makes their condition far, far worse.

The core problem for people who struggle with both mental health crisis and addiction crisis is that the two problems feed off of each other, contributing to one another and back again. You simply cannot treat one problem by itself. If you send the person to receive care for their mental health, their substance abuse will eventually cause a recidivism of that mental health crisis. if you send the person to receive treatment for their addiction but do not treat the mental health crisis, the mental health crisis will likely cause a relapse back to the substances. This is why people who suffer from addiction and mental health issues must get help for both their issues.

Dual Diagnosis not Necessarily Efficacious in Resolving Crisis

Most would say, “Well there is a treatment for mental health and addiction, it’s called ‘dual diagnosis.’” However, there are flaws to this inherent treatment approach and reasons why some treatment centers choose not to apply it to their programs. For one, most dual diagnosis programs place all of the blame for a person’s health and mental state on the mental illness, nothing else. They blame the addiction, the daily habit, the actions taken to support the habit, everything on the mental health issue.
This is a flawed approach because it is unsafe to assume that the mental crisis causes the addiction one-hundred percent of the time. Meth users often appear to be bi-polar. Cocaine addicts are often labeled schizophrenic. Alcoholics are often labeled manic-depressive. Heroin and opiate pill users are often labeled depressed or apathetic. Prescription stimulant users are often labeled as bipolar, ADD, ADHD, or OCD. However, all of these drug substances actually cause the very manifestations that stick the person with the label in the first place!

Another reason why dual diagnosis programs are not always a family or addict’s first choice is that such programs usually insist on using psychiatric medications in their programs to treat the mental illness-side of the problem. However, if the patient’s mental illness is simply a result of their substance abuse habit, then that patient will be affected terribly by taking those medicines. Since no doctor or psychiatrist can accurately determine if a patient truly has a mental illness when the patient is actively abusing drugs and alcohol, it is often seen as foolish to medicate them heavily in a Dual Diagnosis setting when all they really need is rehabilitation and drug abstinence.

Presenting a Better Solution

People who struggle with addiction and the apparency of a mental health crisis have it tough. They have two problems to focus on instead of one. If only they could get rid of one, they could better address the other, but the two constantly rebound off of each other and make getting anything positive done quite difficult.

Not all treatment facilities who provide services to dual-diagnosis clients are created equal.  Many programs rely heavily on medications to resolve mental problems while at the same time treating the addiction with counseling.  While some medication’s may be necessary, finding the most effective method of treatment  requires an exploration of all the possible treatment options.  For instance, at Southern California Addiction Center co-occurring disorders are viewed holistically.  This may include medications, but other factors such as lifestyle, fitness and nutrition are also considered.  Coupled with innovative and cutting edge counseling techniques, this facility has been able to reduce the number of medications (thus reducing side effects), reduce the risk of relapse, and provide valuable tools to aid in the clients future recovery.  At SCAC, a balanced solution to co-occurring disorders provides a better solution to other “dual-diagnosis” programs.





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