Depression and anxiety are some of the most common issues for people who are struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. The inclusion of things like depression and anxiety into someone’s substance abuse treatment is referred to as dual diagnosis treatment, which is a relatively new innovation in the world of addiction treatment. Until only a few decades ago, mental, emotional and behavioral disorders were treated separately from substance abuse. However, more recently, addiction treatment and healthcare professionals have discovered that because these issues are so prevalent in those who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse it is more effective to treat all of these issues simultaneously in order to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient.
Whether it is you or your loved one who is struggling with substance abuse, the first and most important step is admitting that you have a problem. Once that has occurred however, the next extremely important step is to make sure that you find the correct type of treatment. While this may seem straightforward, the numerous different options for substance abuse treatment can make this step a little bit more confusing than it may initially seem. During the process of finding a treatment center, it is crucial that someone who is familiar with addiction and substance abuse treatment assess your situation and determine what form of treatment will be most appropriate.
While there are many traditional treatment programs which do not offer any form of dual diagnosis treatment, programs that do offer dual diagnosis are becoming much more common because of the fact that so many people who struggle with addiction and alcoholism also have struggles like depression and anxiety. Dual diagnosis programs are also able to treat individuals with other, sometimes more severe, mental and behavioral health issues like bi polar disorder and borderline personality disorder and PTSD, all of which are somewhat prevalent in those who find themselves struggling with drugs or alcohol.
What is dual diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis treatment can best be thought of as a combination of substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment, blended into a single simultaneous treatment program. Instead of focusing on one of these issues during treatment, all of individual’s addiction, mental, emotional and behavioral health issues are taken into account and treated.
The reason dual diagnosis treatment has become so popular is because it has proven to be considerably more effective in long term success for the treatment of substance abuse issues. For those who struggle with addiction and/or drug abuse, issues like depression and anxiety can be major roadblocks to continued sobriety if they are not adequately addressed during treatment.
While the benefits of dual diagnosis treatment for the treatment of those who struggle with emotional issues like depression and anxiety, it is a more specialized form of treatment. This in turn requires more specialized and highly trained individuals to provide this treatment. Dual diagnosis facilities typically have more experienced clinical and medical staffs in order to meet the increased demand and provide a higher level of care for their patients. Teams are often times made up of psychiatrists and other doctors, nurse practitioners, as well as a number of licensed counselors who all work together to address each individual patient’s needs.
During treatment, the clinical team will do regular assessment of the patient’s situation and needs in order to develop continued individualized treatment programs which utilize various forms of therapies. This usually comes multiple forms which include regular doctor visits, individual therapy sessions with licensed counselors and group therapy sessions with therapists as well.
Treatment can last anywhere from as little as 30 days to as long as 6 months or even a year, depending on a patient’s needs and individual situation. This length of stay can either be determined at the beginning of someone’s stay, or it can be determined as someone is in their treatment by continually assessing their progress. No matter how long the length of treatment is, the most important thing is that the individual is getting the correct form of treatment, which for many is dual diagnosis.
Treating depression and anxiety with addiction
Treating depression and anxiety for those attempting to recover from substance abuse is so crucial because emotional issues like them can be major contributors to relapses and unhappiness, especially during early recovery. The correlation between emotional issues and substance abuse is a complex one that is not always so easily defined. For most people it occurs in a vicious cycle where one may begin using substances to regulate emotions such as depression and anxiety while the drugs or alcohol may work to combat them in the short term, over a longer period of time the substances can potentiate these issues. This can lead to the individual consuming more or different substances in order to combat the worsening emotions, leading to a continuing negative cycle.
For others, they may not have experienced any anxiety or depression when they first started using drugs and instead used them completely recreationally. However, after prolonged use the substance abuse still causes things like depression and anxiety again creating the progressive nature that is associated with substance abuse. This relationship between emotional instability and substance use is at the core of the reason why it is so crucial to address them during a person’s time in a substance abuse program. If left unaddressed, emotions like depression and anxiety can not only cause emotional distress for those in early recovery but are one of the leading causes of relapse. Having these emotions treated while in a treatment program allows a person to get them under control with the help of a doctor, making early recovery much easier to manage.
Most dual diagnosis treatment programs utilize a team of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners and certified counselors to help treat emotional and mental disorders. This can come in many forms but the following are some of the most common:
- Medication: Medication prescribed by a doctor can be appropriate for the treatment of some individuals for their emotional instability. This can be done by any doctor however most high-level dual diagnosis programs have a psychiatrist who specializes in substance abuse treatment. The doctor at the facility can also assess a patient’s current medications, if they are on any, and determine if the specific drugs and dosages are most appropriate for their situation.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is a form of treatment which focuses on the development of coping strategies that target problems and changing unhealthy thinking patterns. It is most effective in the use of treating depression and anxiety, but can be used to treat a wide variety of emotional and behavioral problems. CBT is performed during individual sessions with a licensed therapist on a regular basis.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This is a form of treatment which is used to treat many mood disorders including, but not limited to, depression and anxiety. It works by allowing the individual to recognize mental and emotional triggers that can lead them to patterns of negative thinking and redirecting those negative thought patters. DBT is done by a licensed therapist during individual sessions on a regular basis.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This form of treatment is primarily used to treat trauma, including PTSD, and utilized specific eye movements to assist patients to process troubling memories which may be contributing to their continued trauma. This can be a particularly intensive form of treatment and is typically most appropriate for individuals who are in an inpatient facility.
Is dual diagnosis treatment right for me?
Determining whether a dual diagnosis treatment program is right for you or your loved one is something that is usually done by a behavioral health professional. They can do an assessment of the situation and struggles in order to determine if someone is struggling with co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety along with their substance abuse which would require the specialized form of treatment.
Many treatment centers can do such initial assessments over the phone to determine if dual diagnosis is right for your situation. That being said, it is exceedingly rare to find individuals who struggle with severe substance abuse that do not have at least some form of depression, anxiety or other emotional or behavioral disorder which would qualify them for dual diagnosis treatment. Because of this, more and more patients are choosing to attend these types of programs when they are seeking recovery from their substance abuse issues.
Another one of the most significant reasons these programs are becoming more popular is due to their increased success rates. Because they address some of the most common causes of relapse for individuals who have undergone some sort of substance abuse treatment, those who have attended a dual diagnosis program tend to struggle less in early recovery because they have had adequate treatment for the issues that occur simultaneously with their substance abuse.
Once you have determined that dual diagnosis is right for you then you also must decide on what level of care is going to be most appropriate. While everyone’s situation is different, the severity of an individual’s substance abuse, as well as their co-occurring disorders, are typically the most important aspect to consider. While some people can be successful in lower levels of care like an intensive outpatient dual diagnosis program, it is typically recommended that patients begin their treatment with a stay in a detox facility and then a residential dual diagnosis program in order to establish a firm foundation for recovery and allow for the most extensive treatment from the doctors and therapists. Once these higher levels of care are completed, then it is usually appropriate for someone to move down to outpatient and aftercare programs to help them sustain their recovery for up to the first year.
Get help finding a dual diagnosis program for depression and anxiety
Once you or your loved one has realized that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol and has decided they are ready to get help, it is important to make sure that you choose the best facility. Often times it can be difficult to determine if a dual diagnosis treatment center is appropriate. Here at Sober Times we have an experienced and professional staff available 24-hours a day to help assess you or your loved one’s needs and locate a treatment program for them. Usually we are even able to help guide you through the admissions process to make sure that getting help is as easy and stress-free as possible.
Our team can also help assess other considerations like health insurance coverage and time away from work. It is important to remember that no matter what your situation, there is a treatment option available for you or your loved one and we are here to help locate it.