In its most common usage, dual diagnosis refers to a condition in which a person suffers from co-occurring disorders such as a psychiatric disorder and substance abuse which is an addiction to a substance like alcohol or drugs or both.
Typically, dual diagnosis occurs in a person who tries to cope with a psychiatric disorder by using drugs or alcohol. People with panic disorder, for instance, may try to sooth themselves with alcohol; or those suffering from depression may use drugs for relief from depression. There is no single type of dual diagnosis; they vary largely according to the combinations of chemical dependency and psychiatric illness. Dual disorder cases include combinations of major depression with cocaine addiction, schizophrenia with alcohol addiction, etc.
Often people suffering from psychiatric disorders such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder etc. are diagnosed with some kind of substance abuse. For example, by some estimates, more than 60 percent of people with serious psychiatric illnesses in the U.S. are found to be dependent on, or addicted to, at least one substance.
An individual who has been diagnosed with dual diagnosis requires to be treated together for both the problems in order to recover completely from them. As a result, dual diagnosis treatments address both the psychiatric illness and substance abuse of their clients and treat both addiction and mental illnesses simultaneously.
The dual diagnosis treatment programs involve an integrated treatment. First the patient is screened and assessed to establish an accurate diagnosis. Then the patient is placed under a comprehensive treatment program that not only involves addiction and mental health treatments but also contains elements of counseling, motivation for recovery, family therapy and preventive management. The dually diagnosed people can also avail options including 12 Step meetings, dual addiction support groups etc.
Recovery is usually a long-term process depending on how acute the disorders are. Once the dually diagnosed patient recovers completely from the problem, it is most important that the patient takes preventive care to avoid relapse as advised by the physician.