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Dual diagnosis, also referred to as “co-existing disorder,” involves both a substance addiction and a mental health disorder. The dual diagnosis problem is a prevalent one in the U.S., according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Because dual diagnosis is a relatively common occurrence, it is important to understand the complexities of diagnosing and treating a dual diagnosis to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient.

Statistics on Dual Diagnosis

NAMI estimates that about one-third of all individuals suffering with a mental disorder also struggle with substance abuse. That percentage actually goes up for people battling the most severe types of mental illness. In addition, around half of all drug abusers and one-third of all alcohol abusers also have some type of mental illness. Men are more likely to have a dual diagnosis than women, particularly those in a lower socioeconomic status or those that have served in the military.

Common Mental Disorders in Dual Diagnosis

While any mental disorder that accompanies substance abuse is considered a dual diagnosis, some illnesses are more common than others in this situation. Some of the more frequently seen mental disorders involved in a dual diagnosis include:

  • Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders (panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Personality disorders 

Which Comes First?

There is no set pattern when it comes to a dual diagnosis. Some patients experience the mental disorder first, and begin using drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication to mask symptoms. Others begin with the substance abuse, which can gradually lead to a mental disorder. As far as treating a dual diagnosis goes, it is not important to distinguish which illness came first. It is far more relevant to get an accurate diagnosis of the mental disorder so that treatment can be customized to the specific needs of the patient.

Getting Proper Treatment

Integrated intervention is the most effective way to approach and treat a dual diagnosis. This involves treating both the mental disorder and addiction simultaneously. If one is treated without the other, the chances of a full recovery or long-term sobriety are slim. Because addiction may be a more immediate issue, treatment often begins with the detoxification process to wean the patient off the substance. This is typically more effective on an inpatient basis, where the patient’s environment can be carefully controlled to ensure withdrawal is safe and successful.

Once detox is completed, treatment for the dual diagnosis can effectively begin. In these situations, patients often find inpatient care works best at the beginning of the process. However, outpatient treatment programs can also be effective if they address both concerns and provide sufficient support throughout to encourage adherence to the recovery process.

Treating dual diagnosis is a complex process that requires a full team of professionals equipped to address any and all issues that might arise. At Pasadena Recovery Center, our team is experienced and highly skilled in treating a wide range of dual diagnoses. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Pasadena Recovery Center at 866-663-3030.

The Experience

Admissions Process

Many people find the very idea of entering a rehab facility daunting. We at the Pasadena Recovery Center want to ease your fears and assure you that we will be here with you every step of the way. Many people believe that the hardest step is the very first one – contacting us – and then it gets progressively easier.


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Typical Day

A typical day at PRC consists of specialized groups such as Anger Management, Grief and Loss, Relationships, Relapse Prevention, Gratitude Group, Groups hosted by Mackenzie Phillips, Gary Richman, and more. Also you’ll get one-on-one counseling sessions with our specialized treatment team, as well as family sessions.


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Expert Speakers Series

At the Pasadena Recovery Center we regularly bring in community leaders and addiction experts to educate our residents, alumni and staff. For example, the Nation’s top drug official, Gil Kerlikowske (photo right), spoke about the California marijuana legalization ballot measure (Prop. 19) prior to the 2010 election.


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