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Dual Diagnosis


Many drug and alcohol abusers in Montana and across the country also struggle with the problems caused by mental and emotional disorders. These co-existing disorders can have complex cause-and-effect relationships with drug and alcohol addiction that make both problems more difficult to solve. Fortunately, Montana drug treatment centers are staffed with experts who can offer individualized and effective dual diagnosis treatment plans to their patients.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis describes a condition in which an addiction and a mental or emotional disorder affect each other. In this context, the disorder is referred to as a coexisting disorder. Often, the addiction and the disorder mutually reinforce each other and both drive the substance abuser to continue drinking or taking drugs.

What are some of the specific interactions between addiction and mental and emotional disorders?

While many disorders can act as co-existing disorders, the following mental and emotional conditions are relatively common among drug rehab patients.

  • Depression: Chronic depression causes severe emotional distress, and many depression sufferers resort to drug or alcohol abuse as a way to temporarily escape from this emotional pain. Alcoholism is especially problematic among depression sufferers.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): The traumatic flashbacks that PTSD sufferers experience drive some to abuse drugs or alcohol in an attempt to relieve the emotional distress caused by the condition.
  • Eating disorders: Many eating disorders are linked to body dysmorphia, a condition in which the sufferer’s physical self-image is distorted. This psychological condition often leads to depression and to excessive drinking or drug use as a result. Certain eating disorders such as anorexia also encourage the use of diet pills and other drugs that promote extreme weight loss.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety disorders cause their sufferers to experience periodic panic attacks and more generalized forms of anxiety throughout their lives. Some people with severe anxiety disorders use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape from the symptoms of the condition.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People who have OCD become locked into irrational and repetitive behaviors that can be very disruptive to their daily routines. Some OCD sufferers abuse opiates, which provide temporary relief from the disorder’s symptoms.

An estimated 4 million Americans suffer from some form of co-existing disorder.

Treatment Options for Dual Diagnosis Patients

Effective drug rehabilitation programs must address both the patient’s drug or alcohol addiction and his or her mental or emotional disorders. Otherwise, the patient may relapse into previous patterns of substance abuse following the completion of rehab. The following methods of dual diagnosis treatment are generally offered by rehab centers:

Psychotherapy: This form of therapy is designed to identify the patient’s specific mental and emotional disorders. By doing so, psychotherapy sessions help rehab center staff organize a more effective and personalized plan of recovery for the patient.

Psychopharmacology: Specific medications may be prescribed to the patient to help control the symptoms of his disorder or disorders. These medications also help make subsequent programs of drug treatment therapy more effective.

Behavioral management: Dual diagnosis patients may also benefit from attendance at counseling sessions that involve cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT is designed to help the patient identify elements of his life that cause him stress and that may contribute to his substance abuse problem. Through CBT, the patient can learn new ways of coping with stress in his life that do not involve drug or alcohol abuse.


Following his release from rehab, the patient should follow a course of aftercare to reduce the risk of relapse. Enrollment in a twelve-step program such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous allows the patient to connect with his fellow recovering substance abusers in a supportive and caring environment. The patient may be required to continue taking medication to control the symptoms of his disorder. Continued attendance at one-on-one counseling sessions may also be advisable to help track the patient’s progress after rehab.

If someone you care about is suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact a Montana rehab center today to learn about available treatment options.