What is Dual Diagnosis & Why Does it Matter?

The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports findings that are significant to providing effective treatment for substance abuse disorders:

  • 4% of all adults have co-occurring substance abuse and psychiatric disorders
  • 25.7% of adults with serious mental illness also have substance use dependence
  • 19.7% of adults with a psychiatric disorder also have substance use dependence
  • Of the 20.8 million adults who suffer from substance use disorder, 42.8% have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder
  • Among the 8.9 million adults who have co-occurring substance use and psychiatric disorders, only 13.5% received treatment for both disorders, and 37.6% did not receive any treatment at all.

The Journal of  American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.  These statistics establish the prevalence of co-occurring psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.  This information is vital to the addiction treatment community and the patients it serves.  In order to effectively treat a person who is struggling with both a substance use and a psychiatric disorder, both conditions must be addressed.  Without dual-diagnosis services, successful recovery is difficult to sustain.

Integrated Substance Abuse & Psychiatric Disorder Treatment

Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders means providing services to address the needs of both substance abuse and mental health disorders in one setting with the same team of professionals.  This begins with the assessment (or diagnosis) process.  A comprehensive assessment identifies any substance abuse, psychiatric, and/or medical conditions that may be present.  A treatment plan is then developed by a team of professionals to address each of those concerns.  This team includes counseling staff, a psychiatrist, and medical staff.  In addition, sources of social support, such as family members and community resources, are identified and included in the treatment planning process.

Long-term success in addiction recovery is complicated when a co-occurring psychiatric condition exists.  It is important to continue addressing both conditions even after being discharged from intensive care in a residential setting.  If medications are prescribed for a psychiatric disorder, compliance with medication orders is important.  Continued abstinence is also important to the successful management of a psychiatric condition, as substance use can interfere with psychiatric medication effectiveness and compliance.  Additionally, outpatient therapeutic approaches need to address both the addiction and the psychiatric condition, as each disorder impacts the other.

Types of Psychiatric Disorders Common with Substance Abuse

ANXIETY DISORDERS:  Anxiety disorders cause people to feel excessively frightened or distressed in situations that would not commonly cause other people to experience such feelings.  Examples of anxiety disorders include Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Learn more here.


DEPRESSION:  Depression is a condition that causes mood states that go well beyond temporary feelings of sadness.  It is a serious illness that affects one’s moods, thoughts, behaviors, and physical health.  People who struggle with depression experience periods of wellness interspersed with periods of illness.  Learn more here.


BIPOLAR DISORDER:  Bipolar Disorder is a condition that causes one to experience dramatic shifts in mood states, between mania and depression.  These mood states are more acute and disruptive than the typical ups and downs most people experience.  Mania may present itself as elevated mood, irritability, erratic or impulsive behavior, racing thoughts, rushed speech, and periods of high energy with little sleep.  Depression may present as excessive sleep, loss of energy, sadness, and a feeling of hopelessness.  Learn more here.


BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER:  Borderline Personality Disorder is a condition that causes instability in mood states and relationships.  Intense anger or irritability, impulsive behaviors, periods of intense depressed mood, uncertainty about self-image, fear of abandonment, and suicidal threats and/or self-harming behavior are common with this disorder.  Learn more here.


Ripple Recovery Ranch offers Dual-Diagnosis services to ensure our clients receive the integrated care they may need to sustain lasting recovery.  Call 800-214-4038 to speak with a recovery adviser today.