Learn About What Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs Offer

Dual diagnosis treatment is a necessity for those who have both a mental illness and a substance use disorder disorder. Often, one may be the cause of the other. For example, a drug or alcohol addiction may be the root cause of a mental illness. Dual diagnosis treats both disorders at the same time.

For those who are struggling with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder disorder, dual diagnosis treatment is often the first step to recovery. This form of treatment helps people make sense of their mental health and substance use disorder. When a person has both conditions, it is known as a co-occurring disorder.

Often, people do not see how these two conditions work hand in hand. For example, someone who has anxiety may start taking a medication such as Xanax (Alprazolam) and become addicted to the drug’s powerful effects. In other cases, people who struggle with depression might drink alcohol to cope with the symptoms of depression, but they are making their depression even worse.

Understanding Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Dual diagnosis treatment is a form of substance use disorder treatment that also assesses if clients also have underlying mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment centers help provide lasting solutions to both problems. This is a vital form of substance use disorder treatment because mental health disorders can lead to addiction, while drug or alcohol abuse can cause a mental health disorder that did not exist before the substance use disorder.

For example, a person suffering from a mental health disorder might use drugs as a form of self-medication. On the other hand, a drug abuser may develop a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety as a result of long-term drug and alcohol abuse. Therefore, any treatment that does not address both issues could be ineffective.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, there is a relationship between mental health disorders and drug abuse. The problem is widespread.

It’s so widespread that about 9.5 million U.S. adults had both an addiction and a mental health disorder in 2019, according to the Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Service Administration. When people deal with both disorders, they need more advanced treatment options. Dual diagnosis treatment centers specialize in this type of care.

Finding the Right Dual Diagnosis Rehab

Seeking dual diagnosis treatment is a good first step toward overcoming or helping a loved one overcome addiction. But if you or your loved ones want to fully recover, it is vital that you find the right dual diagnosis rehab center. This will ensure that you receive the best care and treatment possible.

Below are a few tips on how you may choose the right treatment center for co-occurring disorders:

  • Choose a center that is certified, licensed, and accredited
  • Look for a low client-to-therapist ratio for personalized care
  • Ask if the dual diagnosis rehab staff includes qualified psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses
  • Consider the treatment options and care offered
  • Pick a facility location that suits your needs
  • Learn the specialties of the center and the demographics of its clients. Some centers are dual diagnosis only, others separate their clients by gender, etc.

There’s a lot to learn about co-occurring disorders, dual diagnoses, and available treatment options, but we can help.

Mental Health Disorders That Are Often Diagnosed Alongside Substance Use Disorders

Because of legal reasons, some facilities cannot admit people with certain mental health disorders, but facilities can address many other disorders.

A person with a dual diagnosis often has one or more of the following mental health conditions:

  • Attention-deficit/attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Insomnia disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people who suffer from co-occurring disorders do not receive proper treatment. This is because their mental health disorders often go undetected when they are seeking treatment for their addictions. Unfortunately, when this happens, the recovery process becomes much more difficult, and it is very easy for people to relapse and being using drugs or alcohol again.

Therefore, it is important to identify signs of co-occurring disorders in your loved ones to ensure that they receive proper treatment. Below are some signs and symptoms:

NOTE: The signs of co-occurring disorders can vary from one person to another, depending on the mental health disorder and the substance used. However, there are common problems and warning signs that affect many people suffering from co-occurring disorders, which are listed below.

Reliance on drugs and alcohol in order to feel better

Is your loved one using drugs and alcohol to deal with difficult situations? If this is the case, then there is a chance that he or she might be suffering from a co-occurring disorder. More often than not, people who abuse alcohol and drugs in order to feel better have underlying mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or another condition.

Worsening of mental illness symptoms

Another warning sign of co-occurring disorders is when the symptoms of a mental health disorder become worse. For example, a person who has been experiencing mild depression may start experiencing major depressive episodes.

Drug abuse may cause a mental health disorder to worsen or may make an individual’s treatment for depression ineffective. Withdrawing from a drug may also cause symptoms in a person who is addicted to the substance.

Isolation from friends, family, and other support networks

Drug abuse and addiction often lead to a number of problems, such as a reliance on drugs or alcohol, poor decision-making skills, grief, promiscuous behavior and infidelity, financial worries, and other negative consequences. When addicted people also have a mental health disorder they may find it even more difficult to address their problems.

Unable to deal with their problems, people may isolate themselves or experience relationship difficulties with their friends, family members, and other people in their support network. Isolation is one of the warning signs of co-occurring disorders.

Traumatic events in the past

Traumatic past events such as experiencing sexual assaults or accidents or witnessing deaths may make people more vulnerable to mental health disorders. People may also have a high risk of abusing and becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs if they are using such substances to cope with their trauma.

A mental health disorder background in the family

If there is a mental health disorder background in your loved one’s family, there is also a chance that he or she might be suffering from a mental disorder. It is thus a good idea to find dual diagnosis treatment to deal with mental health and substance use disorders.

What to Expect from Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Types of drug addiction treatment offered at rehab centers differ from one client to another and one center to another. Treatments are even more varied for co-occurring disorders.

Despite this variety, many dual treatment rehab facilities have structured rehab processes that include similar elements.

It is important to participate in the intake process before a dual diagnosis treatment program can begin. Simply speaking, intake is an interview process that aims to make sure that you or your loved one is fit to attend a rehab facility. It also gives you or your loved one a chance to decide whether a specific facility is a right choice.

As stated, dual diagnosis treatment centers aim to treat both mental health and substance use disorder. Therefore, before treatment can start, rehab centers conduct mental evaluations to detect and identify mental health and substance use disorders.

If facilities do not treat mental health and substance use disorders, they may recommend psychiatrists and therapists who can offer clients proper treatment once their substance use disorders have been treated.

During the course of addiction treatment, dual diagnosis rehab centers teach clients and their loved ones how mental disorders affect their addictions. This knowledge gives clients a better chance of overcoming their addictions fully.

Detoxification, or detox, is another process that occurs at many dual diagnosis rehab centers and other facilities. It removes all traces of alcohol and drugs from clients’ bodies.

The detox process begins when staff members evaluate clients. They evaluate their body compositions, the types of drugs they abused, how long they abused the drugs, and other factors. This information helps determine the right course of detox and treatment.

Once the detox process starts, rehab facility staff members monitor clients for withdrawal symptoms. If the symptoms are severe — and they can be — staff members may prescribe medications to stabilize their clients’ conditions.

During detox, clients are typically not required to participate in group activities or complete treatment-related tasks. The main goal of the detox process is to allow clients to rest while removing drugs and alcohol from their bodies.

Once clients undergo mental evaluations and complete their detox processes, they can participate in treatment.

Treatment processes vary depending on facilities as well as clients. The best rehab centers offer flexible treatment styles to meet their clients’ needs. The following are addiction treatment programs offered at our centers:

  • 12-step addiction treatment
  • SMART Recovery program
  • Non-12-step addiction treatment

Aside from treatment programs, there are many therapies that help people address underlying issues. One-on-one counseling, group therapy, life skills lessons, family therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and other approaches are just some of the options.

The treatment you choose is important and can affect your ability to stay sober after therapy. For more information on which options are best for your situation, contact us at any time.

Recovering from a substance use disorder

Recovering from drug addiction is a complex process, and it does not end with rehabilitation. Once clients undergo treatment in dual diagnosis rehab centers, they return to their normal lives.

Returning to these lives may also increase the risks of relapse. It is thus important to offer aftercare treatment options to reduce this risk. Rehab facilities that treat co-occurring disorders offer various aftercare treatments for this purpose. They include:

  • Placing clients in nurturing environments after their treatment ends – this can be in their actual homes or in sober living homes.
  • Offering therapy and counseling to identify and treat the underlying factors that may trigger alcohol and drug abuse. This can include family therapy and group therapy with other people who are also in recovery.
  • Providing psychiatric treatments to treat identified mental disorder(s).
  • Linking clients with caregivers or caseworkers to create solid support systems.
  • Helping clients engage in meaningful and productive activities – such as jobs, volunteer work, etc.

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Traveling for Treatment

Sometimes traveling to the right treatment centers is worth the extra effort. Local facilities may not offer the particular treatment that you need. Of course, there are pros and cons whether you travel for treatment or stay near home for assistance.

It is also important to note that people who travel to our treatment centers will receive local aftercare when they return home. Our counselors will do all of the work to find outpatient programs, support groups, and therapists in your community. This assistance will allow you to continue to receive the proper support you need to maintain your sobriety.

Paying for Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

Paying for dual diagnosis rehab often does not cost more than paying for other forms of addiction treatment. Some people avoid going to rehab because they believe the costs associated with quality treatment are too high.

At Sunshine Behavioral Health, we employ a team of dedicated insurance experts who can help you maximize your health care benefits to pay for rehab treatment. Our experts know exactly what to say to insurance providers who are reluctant to pay what you need and deserve for your rehab stay.

Our goal is to find you the highest quality care for the smallest out-of-pocket cost. Some insurance providers will cover 100% of your dual diagnosis rehab stay.

Verifying your insurance through us is completely free and there is never any obligation to purchase anything. We want to help you recover from your addiction. We are available to start the conversation any time of the day or night.\

Find an Addiction Treatment Resource in Your Home State


  • nber.org – Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder
  • nimh.nih.gov – Substance Use and Mental Health
  • drugabuse.gov – National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • americanaddictioncenters.org – American Addiction Centers
  • samhsa.org – Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Service Administration
  • psychiatry.org – American Psychiatric Association
  • who.int – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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