Alcoholism and Dual Diagnosis Treatment Needs

Chronic alcohol abuse causes widespread damage to the body as well as the mind. Consequently, people struggling with alcoholism often suffer from chronic medical conditions and/or psychological disorders. According to the Medical University of South Carolina, an estimated 40 percent of alcoholics also have some form of mental illness.

Dual diagnosis exists in cases where alcoholism and mental illness are co-occurring. In terms of alcohol recovery, people affected by dual diagnosis have an especially difficult time maintaining abstinence. For these reasons, those seeking alcohol treatment may want to consider certain factors when choosing a treatment program.

Alcohol’s Psychological Effects

Like all addictive substances, alcohol alters normal chemical processes in the brain. With chronic alcohol use, these effects change how the brain works and how the mind thinks.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the effects of alcoholism on a person’s psychological makeup create a form of substance-induced mental illness. Over time, alcohol changes a person’s priorities and drives compulsive drinking behavior in spite of the negative consequences that result. This compulsive behavior display is characteristic of mental illness in general.

Dual Diagnosis Conditions

alcoholic

Many alcoholics have a mental illness.

Both alcoholism and mental illness stem from chemical imbalances in the brain. When these two conditions co-exist, they interact with one another on a chemical level. In effect, symptoms of alcoholism aggravate symptoms brought on by mental illness and vice versa.

Types of mental illness most often encountered in dual diagnosis treatment include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder

Over time, alcoholism and mental illness become enmeshed with symptom severity worsening for both conditions.

Treatment Considerations for Dual Diagnosis Conditions

Individualized Treatment Approach

For people seeking dual diagnosis treatment, programs offering a “one-size-fits-all” treatment approach cannot address the individual needs and challenges each person brings to the treatment process. In cases of dual diagnosis, alcoholism may precede and cause mental illness or mental illness may drive a person to drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. In order to devise an effective treatment plan, a program must first understand the circumstances that brought about a person’s condition.

Treatment programs offering individualized treatment base their treatment approach on information gathered during a comprehensive assessment stage at the start of treatment. Finding a treatment program that offers an individualized treatment approach offers the best chance of a successful recovery process.

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral-based dual diagnosis treatment interventions address the faulty thinking patterns and behaviors that result from alcohol addiction and mental illness. While addiction based treatments may focus more so on undoing the belief systems that support alcoholism, these interventions inevitably tie in with treatments that address symptoms of mental illness. Ultimately, effective dual diagnosis treatment programs offer an integrated treatment approach that works to treat both conditions as one rather than as separate disorders.

Medication Treatments

Medication-based dual diagnosis treatment interventions can take any number of forms, as medication can be used to treat alcoholism as well as mental illness. As dual diagnosis conditions tend to develop in cases of long-term alcohol abuse, it’s likely a person will require both medication and behavioral-based treatment as opposed to just behavioral-based treatment interventions.

Overall, alcoholism and dual diagnosis treatment requires a comprehensive treatment approach that can be length in duration. For these reasons, it’s important to ensure the program you choose has ample experience in dealing with dual diagnosis conditions.

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