Does Mental Illness Impact Recovery From Drug Addiction?

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Can people who suffer from mental illness recover from drug addiction?

About 30 percent of adults ages 18 to 25 experienced a mental illness in the past year, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). For those ages 50 and older, about 14 percent struggled with a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder.

  • Five percent of the adult population suffered from a serious mental illness in the past year about 9 million adults seriously considered suicide in the past year. Of those, 2.5 million made plans to commit suicide and 1.1 million attempted suicide.
  • Women were more likely than men to have a mental illness in the past year (23 percent vs. nearly 17 percent).
  • Adults experiencing mental illness in the past year were three times as likely to have met the criteria for substance dependence or abuse than those who had not experienced mental illness (20 percent vs. 6 percent). Those with a serious mental illness had a rate of substance abuse or dependence of about 25 percent.
  • Nearly 2 million youth aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. That population was also more likely to have used illicit drugs

After looking at all the research and having the experience of treating people with a dual diagnosis, I see many commonalities in certain behaviors and disorders and the individual’s drug of choice.  The issue in treating a person with a co-occurring behavior as well as an addiction both issues must be treated effectively. Often times many Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers claim to treat a dual diagnosis patient, but do not provide all the key elements to effectively diagnose and treat appropriately.  If we accept the statistic that up to 85% of people struggling with an Alcohol or Substance Addiction have a Dual Diagnosis we can also accept that potentially many of these patients will not receive all the key essential components of treatment necessary to create long term sobriety.  

The essential steps in treating a dual diagnosis consist of firstly seeing a qualified Physician i.e. a Psychiatrist to determine if a dual Diagnosis is present.  If a Dual Diagnosis is occurring, then the determination of whether Pharmacological Intervention is necessary.  Well qualified physicians that are successful in treating a Dual Diagnosis have a skill in choosing the right prescription for the Co-occurring Disease. This should be done within the first few days of treatment.  Generally many of the drugs prescribed for co-occurring behaviors such Antidepressants, Anti-Anxiety Medications and medications for ADD or ADHD could take 4-6 weeks to achieve therapeutics levels before positive results can be achieved.  During this period the patient should continue to be under the supervision of the doctor to see if any side effects occur or if there might be a need to adjust the dose. As a final suggestion when researching a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program be prudent and review all aspects of the Program especially the staff page which will give you great insight into the competency and qualifications of the Medical and Clinical Staff.

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