Mental illness and addiction often go hand-in-hand.  People with untreated mental health conditions frequently turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with overwhelming symptoms and self-medicate. And those who use and abuse drugs or alcohol can trigger chemical changes in the brain that lead to mental health disorders. When a person suffers from a combination of mental illness and addiction, it is often referred to as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. Comorbidity is a more scientific term that also implies interaction between the two illnesses that affects the course of both. Some common co-occurring disorders include:


  • Alcohol use disorder and depression
  • Prescription medication addiction and anxiety
  • Opioid abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Alcohol addiction and bipolar disorder
  • Cocaine addiction and anxiety 


These examples are just a handful of many. Any combination of psychiatric illness and addiction qualifies as dual diagnosis. Either disorder (addiction or mental illness) can develop first, and in most people, they become inextricably tangled, each exacerbating the other. The most effective treatment for co-occurring disorders involves integrated intervention, addressing both conditions, either sequentially or simultaneously. 


Dual diagnosis treatment


Dual diagnosis treatment is a specialized approach that involves giving each disorder the same level of attention and care. But exactly what this means will be different for each individual. The symptoms and severity of mental illness and addiction will vary from person to person, requiring a highly personalized treatment plan designed by a provider experienced in the treatment of both. In general, an integrated treatment plan for co-occurring disorders will include some or all of the following:


  • Detox – to aid in stabilization and recovery 


  • Evaluation of psychiatric health – to assess severity of conditions and determine an accurate diagnosis 


  • Diagnosis – to guide the development of an appropriate treatment plan


  • Treatment plan – to integrate a range of therapeutic and medical interventions aimed at healthy living and lasting recovery


  • Addiction rehab – to address the drug or alcohol addiction


  • Medication – to help manage symptoms of mental illness


  • Psychotherapy – to learn methods for healthy coping, identifying triggers, and avoiding relapse


  • Family therapy – to repair damaged relationships, educate family members, and strengthen the support network 


  • Mutual support groups – to develop personal connections, practice communication skills, and maintain long-term recovery


In traditional addiction treatment facilities, there are a number of barriers to recovery for those who suffer from co-occurring disorders, including a lingering bias against medication for mental disorders and an absence of professionals qualified to treat mental illness or administer medication. In order to achieve long-term recovery and symptom management, it’s important to seek help from mental health and addiction providers who specialize in dual diagnosis treatment. 


Co-occurring mental illness and addiction treatment at Pacific Health Systems


At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, we understand the overlapping and inextricable relationship between mental illness and addiction. Our practitioners are compassionate, skilled, experienced in the treatment of a wide range of mental health disorders, and we’re committed to helping every patient manage their symptoms, achieve lasting recovery, and live healthy productive lives. If you or someone you love is in search of dual diagnosis treatment, we can help.  Give us a call at 619-267-9257 so we can help get you on the path to your best life today.