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Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Written by Erica Weiman

& Medically Reviewed by Danielle Boland

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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When someone is struggling with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and others, it is essential that any treatment they seek for substance use addresses both conditions.

What is Mental Illness?

A mental health disorder causes someone to experience altered moods, behaviors or ways of thinking. The most common mental health disorders include:

  • Depression: Depression can range from moderate to severe. It can also include dysthymia, which is characterized by mild but long-lasting periods of depression.
  • Anxiety disorders: This can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias.
  • Personality disorders: This can include borderline personality disorder, multiple personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder: Bipolar is also referred to as manic-depressive illness or manic depression.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD can include subtypes like attention deficit disorder (ADD), and it is characterized by an inability to focus, sit still and finish tasks.
  • Eating disorders: This can include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.
  • Psychotic disorders: This can include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, severe depression, postpartum psychosis and more.
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD): Autism affects the ability to communicate with the outside world and is characterized by repetitive behaviors and social impairment.

How Does Dual Diagnosis Treatment Work?

In dual diagnosis treatment, the first step is to stabilize the patient. It’s essential to ensure the patient won’t harm themselves or others around them. The patient then must begin the detoxification process. For some substances, like marijuana or cocaine, this process is as simple as stopping the use of the substance. For other drugs, like benzodiazepines or alcohol, detox should be medically supervised as withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or even deadly.

Once a patient has completed detox, it’s time to begin treatment. This may vary for each patient, depending on their unique situation, their history with addiction and mental health, the nature of the particular mental disorder and addiction, and more. The patient may need residential treatment, or they may need a partial hospitalization program.

An addiction specialist in a dual diagnosis treatment center like The Recovery Village Ridgefield will work with each patient to assess their needs. The specialist will determine which level of treatment is appropriate for the patient and which therapies will be the most effective. This may be determined by examining a few factors:

  • The patient’s mental health diagnosis
  • The patient’s health and social needs
  • The patient’s recovery goals
  • The patient’s obstacles in the mission to remain sober

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Eating Disorders
Seasonal Affective Disorder

Medications Used in Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Medications may be an integral part of mental health disorder treatment. Depending on the specific mental health disorder, certain medications may help the patient. For example, symptoms may be treated by mood stabilizers, antidepressants, stimulants, anti-anxiety medications and antipsychotics.

Detox drugs may also be helpful in substance use disorder treatment. If a patient is addicted to opioids, they may be prescribed Suboxone or methadone to better handle withdrawal symptoms and begin recovery without experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms. These medications work as replacement therapy. They work by giving the body the opioids it is dependent on without creating a euphoric feeling. Over the next few months or years, patients on Suboxone or methadone taper off these medications so they can live a drug-free life.

All medications should be taken only as prescribed, and any physician or psychiatrist who treats the patient in the future should have a thorough understanding of the patient’s mental health and substance abuse history.

Will Dual Diagnosis Treatment Work for You?

If you are living with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, you may feel alone. It may seem like recovery is impossible. However, treatment is available, and there is an option that’s right for your unique situation.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield is the best option for dual diagnosis treatment in the Pacific Northwest. Convenient to Seattle, Portland, Tacoma and Eugene, The Recovery Village Ridgefield is staffed with addiction specialists who are dedicated to helping you find the healing you deserve. Reach out to us today, and have a confidential conversation with our helpful addiction specialists.


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