Dual Diagnosis In Treatment Centers

ScreamOne of the terms throw around in addiction treatment is “dual diagnosis.” It refers to a patient who has an addiction as well as an underlying mental disorder. Because addiction has a psychological/mental health component, this isn’t surprising. Either the addict starts off trying to treat some problem or they develop it because of the addiction. In some cases, such as schizophrenia, the addictive substance triggers an episode of the mental illness.

While overall estimates by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) are that 60% of the addicted population have a dual diagnosis, one treatment center estimates that their patient population shows a 95% incidence. The two most common associated conditions are depression and anxiety. Journey Healing Centers operate in Utah, with three locations. While patient numbers weren’t published, their website claims they’ve helped “thousands.”

With statistics like these, the picture of what addiction treatment means is more than withdrawal and counseling. If there is an underlying, diagnosable mental illness, that requires professional medical intervention and care. It would not be good enough to detox, counsel and release without seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist and perhaps get patients stabilized on drug therapy.

One reason the numbers may be skewed is that the patients have been admitted to an expense, committed inpatient facility. It has the tools to diagnose underlying conditions (tools that may be lacking in less qualified venues) and it may be that only the worst cases are being seen there (expense is a factor). However, the existence of such a high percentage of dual diagnosis patients stands as a direct affront to “amateur” programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous which do not offer professional mental health. The worry is that addicts are slipping through the cracks when only the addiction is treated.

A criticism is that withdrawal is accounting for the depression and anxiety seen in these patients. To truly count as a dual diagnosis, the underlying mental health issue cannot simply be a temporary reaction to withholding the addictive substance. For this reason, and because of the small, select sample size, the Journey Healing Centers may be an outlier. Still, the information deserves to be considered.

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