There is nothing new about addiction; in fact, it has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. With the compulsive dependent behavior generally associated with the alcohol, drug, food, or sex being abused, there is often an emotional pain that individual is trying to deal with using the addictive substance. Many times, the individual uses the addiction to hide a mental illness with its deep emotional scars.
In the 1990s a term was coined for the treatment of people dealing with the pain of both mental illness and substance addiction – dual diagnosis. In the century prior to the newly identified term, people were treated for their mental illness through institutionalization, meetings, or counseling, but the addiction was largely ignored unless it became a legal issue. When the patient felt out of control, they sometimes sought addiction help, but the chances of a successful outcome were minimal when addiction and mental illness were treated separately.
For more than 50 years, public sentiment has been shifting away from treating mental illness and substance abuse with incarceration. Instead, a new voice of reason insists that mood disorders, dissociative problems, and substance abuse are not character defects, but are instead problems that can be treated with willing participants. As the number of people with mental illnesses grows, the public has become more aware of the need for a comprehensive treatment program.
While the diagnosis of mental illness has been available for more than 150 years, Freud taught that patients could only be cured if you find the deep-seated root of their problem and correct it. With the advent of modern medicine, the discovery of chemical imbalances and improper neural transmissions have been revealed to have an impact on the mental health of those that are suffering. Modern technicians have also discovered that a successful treatment plan must include an individual program for each patient that treats both their mental illness and substance abuse at the same time.
Behaviors of individuals suffering from multiple conditions can be difficult to separate into a set category, and most clinicians and therapists have been taught to look for a certain group of behaviors to classify an individual’s treatable condition. When a person has more than one problem, the over-lapping symptoms can often confuse the diagnosis, and sometimes one symptom may cause another, rather than the underlying problem. With the advent of dual diagnosis, the possibility to look beyond the established list of causes and effects often leads to new possibilities in both treatment and research into new medications.
Today a multitude of psychologists, therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists agree that the successful treatment of mental illness and substance abuse often hinges on dealing with both issues jointly. With the availability of in-house treatment plans that allow for the individual to be present in a fully-integrated program, the chances of a successful program are much higher than they were even a decade ago.
Dealing with a patient after a dual diagnosis may be difficult, but modern medicine has given them the best chance of recovery they have ever had. Today, substance abuse and mental illness treatments are more successful than ever before.