Does My Addiction to My Depression Meds Count as a Dual Diagnosis?

Dual Diagnosis is a term commonly used for when an individual simultaneously suffers from substance abuse and a mental illness. Dual Diagnosis is a broad category and can range from the development of mild depression caused by binge drinking to an individual’s symptoms of bipolar disorder worsening because they abuse cocaine during an episode of mania.[1]

Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first for an individual. If the mental health condition occurs first, the individual may turn to drugs and alcohol to help self-medicate to improve the symptoms. Abusing substances can also lead to numerous mental health problems because of the effects the drugs have on the individual’s mood, thoughts, brain chemistry and behavior. Research has shown that drugs and alcohol typically only make the symptoms of a mental health condition worse.

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

Dual Diagnosis is a term to describe the condition of and treatment for individuals who suffer from both an addiction and a psychiatric disorder.  For example, an individual can be addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling while also struggling with a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, depression, or numerous others.[2] Included in the following are some examples of common symptoms experienced by those with a Dual Diagnosis:

  • Sudden and erratic changes in behavior
  • Avoiding or withdrawing from friends and family
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Loss of control over the use of substances
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Confused thinking or issues concentrating

The defining characteristic of Dual Diagnosis is that both the substance abuse and the mental health condition occur simultaneously. Unfortunately, because there are so many different combinations of disorders that can occur, symptoms of Dual Diagnosis will vary widely in their number and severity.

How Is Dual Diagnosis Treated?

Today, the most common method of treatment for Dual Diagnosis is integrated intervention, which is where the individual receives care for both the specific mental illness as well as the substance abuse. Due to the fact that there are numerous ways in which a Dual Diagnosis can occur, treatment will vary from one person to another. Included in the following are some of the most common forms of treatment for an individual who has a Dual Diagnosis:

  • Detoxification
  • Inpatient treatment/rehabilitation
  • Medications
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self-help groups

Typically, the first and biggest hurdle for any addict is to complete the detoxification process. During this time, patients are constantly monitored. Depending on the individual’s addiction, whether it is to depression medications or another substance, medical staff will administer tapering amounts of the substance or a medical alternative, to help the individual gradually and safely wean off the substance while lessening the effects of withdrawal.

After the detox process has been completed, the individual may find it extremely beneficial to enter an inpatient treatment or rehabilitation facility, where she can receive treatment for both the addiction and mental health condition. While in inpatient treatment, the individual will receive additional therapy, support, medication management, and health services with the end goal of successfully treating the addiction and other underlying causes, such as the mental health condition.

Medications can be beneficial in helping to ease withdrawal symptoms as well as treating a variety of mental health conditions. Depending on the individual’s mental illness, medication management may play an important role in the recovery process.

Psychotherapy plays a tremendous role in an effective Dual Diagnosis treatment plan. Educating an individual on his illness, as well as how his beliefs, behaviors, and thoughts contribute to his condition has shown tremendous benefits in helping him recover from both mental illness and addiction.

Dealing with a Dual Diagnosis can be a challenging process that causes an individual to feel isolated from others. Support groups allow the individual to share and express frustrations and successes, receive referrals to specialists, and learn about other community resources. These groups also help form friendships and provide the much needed encouragement to help the individual remain sober.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling with a Dual Diagnosis of addiction and a mental health condition, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our highly trained and professional counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your addiction questions and help you find the best treatment for your condition. Help is only a call away so call us today!


[1], Dual Diagnosis, National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1/29/2016.

[2], What is Dual Diagnosis, Morteza Khaleighi, Ph.D., 01/30/2016, 10/10/2011.

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