Issues of mental illness and substance abuse often go hand in hand for many individuals that struggle to self-medicate when their symptoms become difficult to handle. People with both a mental illness and an addiction are considered to be dual diagnosis because they have two disorders that must both be treated professionally.
Unfortunately, many patients with a dual diagnosis are treated for their illnesses by different teams of doctors prescribing different and sometimes contradictory treatments. Integrated treatment is usually more effective at treating the individual incompletion as well as managing symptoms of both their mental illness and their addiction problems. Co-occurring conditions can be complicated to solve and using an integrated treatment approach allows each patient to experience greater success because they are being treated for each issue simultaneously.
Obstacles for Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Co-occurring disorders are more widespread than people may realize with 50 percent of people with severe mental health disorders also abusing drugs to the point of addiction. Compare this with statistics stating that only 15 percent of the general population abuses drugs and/or alcohol and it seems clear that mental illness can drive people to engage in substance abuse. In spite of the dramatically high rate of dual diagnosis among people with mental illnesses, patients often get bounced back and forth between different doctors and treatment centers. Some programs require individuals to get sober before entering treatment for their issues, a task that is difficult when you are faced with severe symptoms of mental illness that cause you to continually self-medicate. Although mental health clinicians and substance abuse specialists alike have long been aware of the connection between the two illnesses, progress has been slow in successfully accommodating their treatment for dual diagnosis patients. A more modern model known as the integrated dual disorder treatment model or IDDT allows clients to integrated treatment options into one facility.
Benefits of the Integrated Approach
The integrated treatment model uses a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team approach to coordinate every aspect of a person’s recovery and ensure all the providers in their care are working toward a common goal. Another key element in IDDT is “stagewise interventions” which helps patients benefit from incremental successes in recovery through four different stages.
It also encourages patients to continue seeking treatment after they complete rehab so that they can avoid any risk of relapse in the future. This model provides continued care and services even when symptoms are infrequent. Patients are also not discharged if they slip up and use drugs again or stop taking their medication. Integrated treatment could provide a much-needed change for patients that are struggling to recover from their two disorders.
In order for IDDT to be included in more treatment programs, it will have to overcome resistance in terms of eligibility requirements in certain institutions. Some treatment facilities say that they cannot verify a client’s mental health diagnosis if they have an active substance abuse problem. Substance abuse facilities might also require patients to have their mental illness stabilized prior to addiction treatment.
If IDDT is to be incorporated into more treatment programs, they will have to change some of their policies and procedures to accommodate a more updated view on how to treat patients with dual disorders. There may be many instances of resistance to change on the part of treatment centers that are used to running their facilities a certain way but there is overwhelming evidence that dual diagnosis patients need integrated treatment in order to recover successfully. As more providers make the shift to an integrated approach, patients will be closer to living more stable and fulfilling lives in spite of their dual disorders.