Jeremy Ohara

Jeremy Ohara

How Dual Diagnosis Influences Treatment and Recovery Pathways?

  Jan 17, 2024
Reviewed by Ravinder Kaur

Dual Diagnosis

Tom has been erratic the past few days. This is the moment you’ve always been afraid of, a déjà vu of sorts. Deep down in your family’s history books, you know that a mental health disorder lurks, and somehow, you feel like it’s caught up with Tom.

When you take him to the hospital, the appointed Dr. Grace politely informs tips for stable mental health. Apart from the mental health disorder, Tom is also addicted to meth and heroin and even experiments with weed. In this case, the patient requires what is medically termed a dual diagnosis. 

Dual Diagnosis 101

Dual diagnosis means the patient facing both mental health and substance abuse that affects mental health like drugs or alcohol at the same time. Before the early 80s, patients would go to two clinics: one to take care of the mental disorder and the other to wean them off their stash. 

However, a double health program opens the door for doctors and therapists to huddle and figure out how to care for clients right where they are. They’ll give attention to both types of treatments for a complete recovery. 

Interested in how this approach might help you? You can gather more information here or anywhere else you prefer.

In the meantime, let’s focus on how impactful is dual diagnosis and where to get the help and treatment required. We will also look into the details of the steps to take towards healing by eliminating the habit of drug abuse. 

Let’s start with the challenges of dual diagnosis. 

Substance use disorders may not directly cause mental health issues but there is a connection between the two. Drugs and alcohol worsen the symptoms of mental health conditions. 

Challenges In Dual Diagnosis

Here are some of the challenges that doctors experience in dual diagnosis.

Overlapping Symptoms

How much of the depressive symptoms come from the disease, and how much is from the drugs? Who’s winning this struggle? That’s a huge headache that doctors must figure out before starting a treatment.

Initial Treatment Seekers

In the scenarios mentioned above, the patient – Tom visited Dr. Ben, not because his mother insisted, but because he didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of another overdosed person. At the hospital, he’s hit with the “chronic depression” shock. 

On the other end, Sylvia, a new friend he met at the hospital, didn’t wish to talk about her drug addiction. She just wanted medication to stop her from feeling depressed and anxious all the time. 

This lack of full disclosure presents a challenge for Dr. Ben, who must figure out all the issues before him to find a remedy for both Tom and Sylvia.


Seeing how people talk about those with mental health issues, it’s no surprise Tom doesn’t wish to let them know he’s affected by it. Even worse is that his addiction to drugs is difficult to eliminate. 

This worry leaves him lonely and unable to openly share information with Dr. Ben, stopping him from getting the correct assessment.

Diagnostic Tools And Criteria

Sometimes, the tools used for diagnosis are so interconnected that understanding the mixed issues of mental health and substance abuse becomes complex. That’s why expert doctor’s teams are required to come together with a more detailed way to figure out the problem. 

Here are some of these ways:

Multidisciplinary Approach

A multidisciplinary approach means consulting not just a mental health expert, and addiction specialists, but also medical doctors simultaneously. This group of experts can work together to come up with a treatment plan to care for the clients to kick their habit and hopefully regain their former healthy selves.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Whenever the patient feels anxious, especially in social situations, drinking seems an easy aid. The unwell person may not realize the connection until an experienced doctor introduces them to CBT. This is the first step towards learning that anxiety comes from insecurity and public shame connected to the abuse. 

Through CBT, the doctor turns the client’s embarrassment into focusing on not overthinking and maintaining a positive outlook toward recovery. After complete healing and treatment, patients like Tom can continue with their normal lives like hanging out with friends and family. 

Since he’s not that anxious anymore, he doesn’t drink as much, either. That’s a win-win situation.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Maria’s happy one moment, and she’s lower than the Mariana Trench the next. During these depressing moments, she drinks, smokes, and snorts the pain away. 

Dr Jane has diagnosed her with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She’s introduced DBT to get her back to the straight and narrow. Bit by bit, she and Maria practice emotional regulation, distress toleration, and mindfulness till it sets in like fast-drying concrete. 

So, the next time Maria finds her friends laughing at her expense, she goes deep breathing, not breathing down their necks. And when the test scores come, and she doesn’t get the best scores, she goes for self-soothing techniques instead of drowning her sorrows as usual. 

Over time, she experiences fewer intense mood swings, and her impulsivity finds its way out the door. This results in better relationships, better stress handling, and eliminating the habit of drinking and drugs. 

Awareness and acknowledgment of dual diagnosis should be promoted as very few people want to undertake it which is clearly seen in the chart below. 

Percentage of People Who Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Medication Management

Alex was suffering from opioid addiction and at the hospital, the doctors diagnosed him with depression, too. Dr James will get him on antidepression drugs and, at the same time, give him something to cure his shivers, insomnia, and other withdrawal symptoms. 

As his situation changes, so does the medication. The reason for any change in treatment is to ensure its effectiveness and to minimize any side effects. It also reduces the dependency on one type of medicine. 

Supportive Services

There’s no better way to cross the wide desert than with a hand to hold. Yes, doctors can render their expertise, but Aunt Lilian’s cake on Saturdays is not just soothing a sweet tooth but also a heart. Mama’s calls and pops laughter on the way home from the hospital, and Tom may feel like there’s still room for him in the house.

Vocational training, housing assistance, and peer support – all create surroundings that are healthy and have a positive impact on the overall recovery pathway. It also helps to build a foundation Tom and his family will be proud of.

Get Help Today

A dual diagnosis isn’t an easy one to undertake but with the right support and treatment, it’s possible to utilize it. This article is but a gentle guide showing you part of the way toward understanding and addressing such a medical assessment. 

The real answer lies with the medical experts. Don’t wait till the queries turn downhill leading to a mismatched and longer recovery process. Reach out and get help today.