Dual Diagnosis
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It’s a common question for someone new to treatment: What is dual diagnosis?

Mental and substance use disorders aren’t always separate problems – they’re conditions which often feed off of each other. A person with bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder may turn to alcohol or other drugs for relief from their symptoms; a person with a drug addiction may develop depression or anxiety as their life spirals out of control. This combination of illnesses is called a dual diagnosis, and presents a unique challenge to both patient and clinician.

Sovereign Health is an expert provider of dual diagnosis rehabilitation, particularly for adolescents. Our residential treatment facility in rural San Diego County, Rancho San Diego, is one of the top dual diagnosis treatment centers in California, offering children aged 12 to 17 a safe, welcoming environment to work on their problems and achieve their full potential.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a single term that describes two – or more – problems. Although mental illness and substance abuse can occur together, they’re also separate diseases that require separate treatment. Although dual diagnoses are certainly serious, mental illnesses and substance use disorders are treatable – and respond well to treatment.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates around a third of people with a mental illness also deal with substance abuse. For people living with a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the percentage is closer to half. NAMI also warns dual diagnosis is more common in men than women. Other risk factors include having a lower economic status, having experienced trauma and already having a mental illness.

Symptoms Of Dual Diagnosis

The nature of a dual diagnosis means symptoms can vary dramatically from patient to patient. However, the symptoms of substance abuse remain fairly constant:

  • Clumsy behavior, a lack of coordination or slurred speech
  • Being unusually tired
  • Sudden money problems, or household valuables and money disappearing
  • Needle marks on extremities
  • Bad hygiene

Red Flags of Dual Diagnosis

  • Suddenly withdrawing from family and friends – or associating with a new, different set of friends
  • Dramatic changes in behavior, such as a decline in school performance or a sudden loss of interest in activities
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors

What Causes Dual Diagnosis?

In a dual diagnosis, there’s no guarantee which problem will develop first. Anxious people may start using drugs for their temporary calming effect, or alcoholics can become steadily more depressed as their disease drives away their friends, family and employer. It’s a terrible, self-injuring cycle as addiction only makes mental illness worse – alcohol and illicit substances only create temporary relief, and they more often they’re used the greater risk there is of tolerance and addiction.

Drugs work by fundamentally rewiring the brain to believe it needs the substance – be it alcohol, opioids or stimulants like methamphetamine. As addicts continue to abuse substances, they need more of the substance to feel the same effects, a condition known as tolerance. Additionally, when the body realizes it’s not getting enough of the substance, it goes into withdrawal, causing painful, unpleasant and sometimes fatal effects for the user.

When coupled with an existing mental disorder, addiction can quickly overwhelm a person and ruin his or her life. Both drugs and mental illness can damage a person’s ability to reason and make sound decisions, creating potentially life-ruining situations for adolescents.

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Dual Diagnosis Recovery

Mental health and substance use disorders are serious enough on their own – both can severely curtail an adolescent’s enjoyment of life and render them incapable of functioning normally in school and at home. But when combined, the situation is far more serious. However, both conditions are treatable at dual diagnosis treatment centers, and studies have shown both mental illness and substance use disorders respond well to treatment.

At Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego, we offer dual diagnosis rehabilitation for adolescents aged between 12 and 17 in a pleasant, summer camp-like residential environment. Our staff of compassionate professionals makes use of the latest effective, research-backed treatment modalities to help Sovereign Health’s youngest clients lead healthier, positive lives.

Patients engage in both individual and group therapy in a safe and secure environment free from distraction. They also participate in classes on stress reduction and anger management, which helps our patients gain a higher understanding of themselves and their world. Additionally, patients can engage in fun, alternative therapies such as yoga and equine therapy.

Why Choose Sovereign Health?

Sovereign Health is a leading provider of mental health, substance abuse and eating disorder treatment. When seeking professional intervention for your child, we should be your first choice. Why?

  • Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego is fully accredited by the Joint Commission, the largest and oldest health care accreditation and standards-setting organization in the United States
  • We continually strive to use the most effective treatment methods to ensure our patients have the best chance at a full recovery
  • Our facility is safe, secure and staffed by friendly, welcoming professionals.

For more information on our dual diagnosis treatment programs, please call our 24/7 helpline.

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