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Dual Diagnosis


A dual diagnosis is a serious medical condition that describes the co-existence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder at the same time. Also known as co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis interactions affect people in a variety of ways. Specialized treatment is often required to treat this condition, with standard treatments including medical detox, medication therapy, behavioral therapy, relapse prevention, and aftercare support. If you or someone you know is looking for dual diagnosis treatment in Iowa, it’s important to find professional help as soon as you can.

What is a Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis is the coexistence of two separate yet related conditions: a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. While this term is widely used in both medical and drug treatment circles, there is controversy surrounding its use. Because the dual diagnosis label can be applied to multiple conditions and interactions, some experts believe it’s inappropriate due to its broad focus. The term “co-occurring disorders” can also be applied, although this label is only correct when the primary disorder is related to substance abuse. People living with a dual diagnosis face a number of problems in society, including higher rates of homelessness, hospitalization and social stigma.

Links between Mental Health Illness and Addiction

Mental illness and drug abuse can interact in a range of different ways, with some conditions involving a causal relationship and others involving a bidirectional connection.

Methamphetamine-induced psychosis is an example of a causal link, where methamphetamine abuse directly affects the mental health of the drug user. The relationship between depression and alcoholism is an example of a bidirectional connection, with mental illness and alcohol addiction affecting each other in complex and chaotic ways. Before treating a dual diagnosis, doctors and clinicians will often attempt to define a single primary disorder which will influence the treatment regimen.

Depression Disorder and Drug Abuse

Depression disorder is a serious problem in Iowa and across the United States. Also known as clinical depression, major depression disorder (MDD), unipolar depression, or recurrent depression, this condition affects people in a number of profound and challenging ways. People with depression are likely to suffer a persistent low mood and bad self-esteem, with people often unable to gain pleasure from regular life activities. People with depression are much more likely to experience substance abuse and addiction problems than the general population, including psychological and physical dependence.

The links between depression disorder and substance abuse can take many forms, with some people developing an addiction as a result of depression and others developing depression because of a drug problem. Before treating this form of dual diagnosis, doctors will attempt to define a primary disorder and instigate an appropriate treatment plan. This can be a difficult endeavor, with many of the symptoms of drug addiction mimicking the symptoms of depression and vice versa.

Anxiety Disorders and Drug Abuse

Other than depression disorder, anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in Iowa. Common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People struggling with anxiety problems often turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, including prescription medications and illicit substances. Anxiety patients may also seek treatment after becoming addicted to their medications, with benzodiazepine drugs such as Valium and Librium both highly addictive and widely prescribed for anxiety disorders.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Conditions

Treatment for dual diagnosis conditions includes a range of pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy and behavioral management programs, including relapse prevention and 12-step support groups. While primary and sequential treatment patterns are often applied, integrated treatment is often believed to be the best alternative. By treating mental illness and drug addiction as a single unified disorder, doctors can evaluate the precedents of the condition and come up with an appropriate treatment plan.