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Dual Diagnosis: Sobriety and Mental Illness

The term ‘dual diagnosis’ is used to describe people who have co-existing problems: mental illness and addiction to alcohol and/or drugs. In the past the co-existence seemed to have been overlooked and some people were treated for just one condition, repeatedly. Dual Diagnosis is complex and many people with mental illness also exhibit substance abuse problems and/or addiction issue. It is typically true the other way around.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), that nearly a third of people with mental illness and half of people with severe mental illness like bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia additionally experience problems with substance abuse. Equally, these numbers are rather consistent the other way around. A third of alcohol abusers and half of drug abusers experience mental illness.

NAMI also concludes that many people who need help, and are seeking help with mental illness are easier to assist if alcohol and/or drugs are not actively being used. With cases like this, inpatient detoxification and treatment with the appropriate medications is typically the best route to take to deal with dual diagnosis and to get better. Once treatment is sought, and the person is safely through detox then treatment of the mental illness might be more successful. This only means that a person with mental illness is more likely to participate in treatment for mental illness if sober – they can be present.

Many people in recovery from addiction find therapy as a helpful part of maintaining their sobriety. This might include individual therapy and self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. In addition to this, many seek the support of families and friends who continually provide non-judgmental support. With proper medical treatment and a foundation of emotional and spiritual support, most people with dual diagnosis can actively participate in their own recovery.