Substance abuse and dependency is a serious problem in the US affecting many people. In fact, according to the results of a 2012 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 22.2 million people aged 12 and older were classified with substance abuse or dependence. That’s 8.5 percent of the surveyed population.
This abuse or dependency can cause a number of problems ranging from physical and mental health issues, problems at work, problems at home, and even death. The following is a look at dual diagnosis treatment – what it is and how it works, as well as a look at some of the benefits of inpatient addiction treatment.
What is Dual Diagnosis?
In many cases, substance abuse is not simply a stand-alone problem. Dual diagnosis, also referred to as co-occurring disorders, is a situation that develops as a result of certain disorders occurring simultaneously, such as alcoholism and anxiety, depression and alcoholism, and so on.
The fact that these disorders are often found together has made it extremely difficult for researchers to determine the actual source of the problems, although there are some theories as to how co-occurring disorders work. It’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg problem; which comes first?
There are a number of applicable co-occurring disorders. For illustrative purposes, however, let’s take a look at the link between alcohol abuse and anxiety. In one theory, researchers believe that the abuse problem is the cause of the anxiety, that the anxiety is the result of the neurochemical and physiological changes that occur as a result.
An alternate theory is that people turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate. They believe that the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety and panic attacks a person experiences lead him or her to choose alcohol for relief. In turn, the rebounding effect – the return of symptoms more severely – leads to a cycle in which the person has both anxiety issues and an alcohol abuse or dependency problem.
Yet, another theory is that there is a third aspect that is the source of both problems – genetics. These theorists believe that the person has certain genetic and physiological markers that predispose them, or make them more susceptible, to developing problems in both areas. Essentially, this means that the same characteristics that make it likely to develop mental health issues also makes it more likely for them to develop substance abuse problems.
How Dual Diagnosis Works
The differing theories on the exact causes are precisely why dual diagnosis has proven so effective in the treatment of co-occurring disorders. Rather than trying to determine the primary cause versus the secondary cause, clinicians treat both the substance abuse problems and the mental health disorders simultaneously, treating both as primary causes.
Benefits of Inpatient Treatment
One means of treatment of people suffering from co-occurring disorders is inpatient treatment facilities. Inpatient treatment is a highly effective method of treatment for a number of reasons including:
- Positive, supportive social interaction between the patient and staff members and other patients
- Health improvements as a result of dietary changes and exercise
- Inspiration from seeing other patients going through similar problems
- An increased sense of security from around-the-clock supervision by trained professionals
- A separation from negative environmental influences and substances
- Education on how the disorders work, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
One particular technique that is employed by addiction treatment centers is cognitive behavior therapy. The main idea behind this form of therapy is that it educates the patients on the connection between their thoughts and their behaviors.
One useful facet of this type of therapy is that the patients are urged to test their unhealthy beliefs. For example, many people who suffer anxiety develop a heightened sensitivity to body sensations. As a result, they come to the belief that those sensations they signal something important, though oftentimes they don’t. Challenging those beliefs, and seeing that they’re false, is an important step in developing healthy coping mechanisms. This is especially important for substance abusers because these tools empower them to cope with their problems rather than turn to substances for relief.
Seeking help can be a difficult, but very important step in the recovery process. Whether you are suffering from a substance abuse problem or you have a loved one who is suffering, it is always important to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to admit that help is needed, and it’s also much safer than trying to cope with these issues alone. Not only is there a greater chance of relapse, there is also the possibility of serious health complications that can arise as a result of withdrawal that are better tended to by trained professionals.