Speak to a caring addiction specialist today! 800-409-5882

View All Listings
Live Chat



Dual Diagnosis


People with drug and alcohol problems often struggle with additional mental health disorders. The existence of a mental illness and a substance use disorder, is known as a dual diagnosis. This broad term is used to describe a wide array of complex interactions. Common dual diagnosis conditions include, depression disorder and opiate abuse, panic disorder and Valium abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism, and drug-induced psychosis. While some of these conditions have a causal linear connection, others are bi-directional in nature and much harder to treat. There are a number of problems inherent with diagnosing and treating these conditions, with symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse often affecting and mimicking each other.

Treatment for dual diagnosis conditions typically includes one of the following treatment patterns: primary treatment, sequential treatment, parallel treatment, and integrated treatment. While an integrated program at a single facility is normally recommended, it may be necessary to use the services of multiple doctors and clinics. Ongoing treatment may be required after detox and rehab have been completed, with 12-step support groups and dedicated mental health clinics helping people to adjust to everyday life after formal treatment. If you know someone who is living with a dual diagnosis, it is important to find professional help in Hawaii as soon as you can.

Why is dual diagnosis common?

Dual diagnosis interactions are more common than most people think. People with mental health disorders often use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, as psychoactive substances are able to provide a temporary sense of relief from disabling mental disorders. The connection between mental illness and drug addiction also goes the other way, however, with drug addicts also developing signs of mental illness after years of abuse and addiction. While a single primary disorder can be recognized in certain cases, clinicians often struggle to make a clear diagnosis. Even if a correct diagnosis has been made, patients often have a difficult time finding appropriate treatment, with mental health and drug treatment services historically separated and challenging to integrate.

Dual Diagnosis Statistics

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 17.5 million adult Americans have experienced a serious mental health disorder during the past year, with 4 million people also living with a co-occurring drug or alcohol addiction. Depression disorder and anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the large number of people with co-occurring disorders, more than 50 percent of people do not receive adequate levels of treatment for their condition. While some people get the help they need for either mental illness or substance abuse, integrated treatment programs are rare in Hawaii, and often difficult to access for financial or practical reasons.

Medication Treatment

Depending on the substance of addiction and mental illness in question, medication treatment may be required. A medical detox period is typically required for drugs that produce a physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome, including alcohol, heroin, prescription opiates such as morphine and oxycodone, and prescription sedatives such as Valium and Xanax. Long-term medication treatment is also required in some situations, including opiate replacement therapy and medication for mental health conditions.


A range of psychotherapy programs are administered to dual diagnosis patients, with common treatment modalities including cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, motivational interviewing, 12-step facilitation, and contingency management. These programs are designed to help patients recognize problematic emotional and cognitive patterns, so that they can avoid impulsive and compulsive behavioral responses. If you or your loved one is struggling with both a substance addiction and a mental illness, contact an addiction specialist today for more information on dual diagnosis treatment.