People with severe mental disorders also experience a co-occurring substance abuse problem; approximately 50% of individuals with a mental disorder are also affected by substance abuse; 37% are alcohol abusers, 53% drug abusers (Medline). This is also called dual diagnosis which is when someone has a mental disorder and alcohol or drug dependence (Medline). It occurs with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or personality disorders (Medline). The interviewee for this paper has been dually diagnosed with depression and has a history of alcohol/l drug abuse.
Depression affects about 20 million people in the U. S. Depression is not the blues, it continues and interferes with everyday life (Medline). The symptoms include: sadness; loss of interest or pleasure in things previously enjoyed; weight loss or gain; sleeping too much or too little; lack of energy; feelings of worthlessness; and finally if the depression they may entertain thoughts of suicide (Medline).
Substance abuse is usually defined as a “pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes” or “the use of illicit drugs or the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they were prescribed (Medline).
The most of people who enter treatment programs have a “dual diagnosis” or an accompanying mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, along with a substance abuse problem (Treatment Centers). One study found that over 70 percent of the clients had dual diagnosis issues, of which 54 percent were properly diagnosed, and only 23 percent got appropriate treatment for them (Treatment Centers). Dual diagnoses services integrate assistance for each condition helping the client recover from both conditions at once; if not they are at high risk of treatment drop out (Medline).
It is important that a person with dual diagnosis get treated for both their alcohol and drug dependence along with their mental disorder to give them a better chance of recovery (Medline). At times the mental disorder comes first which leads to people to drink or use drugs to self-medicate. The alcohol or drugs gives the person a temporary feeling of relief which is a confused feeling associated with their mental disorder. When the substance dependence comes first it can lead to emotional and mental disorders while the person is dealing with the consequences of their drug usage.
Dual Diagnosis in Real Life
Christy* was diagnosed with depression at the age of 6; she had childhood issues of abandonment. She stayed back and forth between her dad and grandparents house. At the age of 13 she was raped; she became promiscuous after being raped and began to drink alcohol then began self -mutilation. She followed the older kid’s crowd and when the alcohol was not enough she began to smoke weed at 14. She began working with her aunt at the age of 15. Her grades stayed low throughout high school, during this time she was only smoking weed. She began to see a therapist again at the age of 16 up until she was 18 she then stopped because she no longer had the money. She did graduate with summer school class. At the age of 19 she began to drink heavily which caused her to lose job and caused problems at home. She continued to drink and smoke weed because she felt like it took the edge of the depressive symptoms.
Christy* began to have a very poor appetite, didn’t want to get out the bed, and was very withdrawn from family and normal activities. She had her first child at 21 shortly after she tried cocaine. After she had her second child she began drinking heavily and smoking on occasion. She did a lot of moving around during this time was drinking smoking and using cocaine. She eventually lost her kids to DFACS; she later did what she had to do to get her children back. She then sent her kids with their dad, but later fell into a deep depression. Which caused her to drink and use heavily she was what you call a functioning addict. She continued to work and carry on daily activities despite her addiction. Later she was arrested for possession of cocaine was bonded out after 5 days of sitting in jail. She filed her income tax she spent 85% of her refund on drugs and alcohol. Once the money was gone, she realized she needed help so she called behavior health.
She then started substance abuse classes and one-on-one therapy was treated for both substance abuse and depression. They put her on medication she continues after care substance abuse classes and sees a therapist. She has remained alcohol and drug free for almost a year with treatment and continues Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group meetings twice a week. Christy’s* treatment was effective because she was ready to leave drugs and alcohol alone. She was also fortunate enough to have a therapist that realized she suffered from depression and substance abuse. Her psychiatrist and her therapist worked together to treat her with antidepressants and individual therapy to deal with her poor self-esteem and her continuing abandonment issues. Christy* attends 2 meetings a week in aftercare substance abuse classes; and she also attends NA group meetings 2 nights a week. She takes on-line classes with Liberty University and is engaged to be married. She has a bright future because of the up-to-date dual diagnoses and treatment.
Christy* (28 November 2012). Personal interview.
Medline Plus. (2012). Website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of
Health. Retrieved 28 November 2012 from
Meyers, D. G. (2010). Psychology 10th Edition. New York, NY: Worth Publishers National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2003). Mental illnesses: Dual diagnosis and integrated
treatment of mental illness and substance abuse disorder. Retrieved 27 November 2012 from .
Treatment Centers. (2011). Why people drop out of substance abuse treatment and what you can
learn from their experiences. Retrieved 27 November 2012 from
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