Dual Diagnosis Program

Dual diagnosis means someone has both a mental illness and a substance use problem. Many people with alcohol and drug problems have a range of mental health problems at higher rates than the general community. In many cases, it is hard to tell which problem came first; perhaps the mental illness prompted the person to abuse drugs, or else their drug problem pre-dated their mental illness. The substance use could also worsen the symptoms of the person’s mental illness – for example, smoking marijuana can trigger a psychotic episode in some people.

This includes increased instances of anxiety and depression. The abused substance could be prescribed medication, illegal drugs or alcohol.

A recognised problem is that many services for substance abuse and mental illness don’t overlap, which means that the person with dual diagnosis is managed through separate systems. This can make diagnosis and treatment more difficult. The Hader Clinic Program provides both mental health and drug addiction programs to overcome this difficulty.

The Hader Clinic provides specialist treatment program for clients suffering from both drug addiction and mental illness. All clients are provided private room accommodation and expert highly qualified staff to facilitate the specialist care to ensure maximum opportunity of recovery for those suffering dual diagnosis. Hader Program staff are trained in both Mental Health and Drug Addiction Treatment.

Common Characteristics of Dual Diagnosis Sufferers

A typical person with dual diagnosis is likely to have the following characteristics and experiences:

  • May be alienated and lack support from family and friends.
  • Won’t cooperate with their health care providers.
  • Is very emotional.
  • Is likely to have severe psychiatric symptoms.
  • May be homeless or moving frequently from one place of residence to another.
  • Is likely to relapse.
  • May be hospitalised or taken to accident and emergency departments reasonably often.

Issues for People with Dual Diagnosis and Their Families

The lack of professional knowledge about dual diagnosis can be frustrating for those affected and their families. Common experiences may include:

  • Health care providers may blame the client for being difficult and unresponsive to treatment, rather than questioning whether the health care system is failing to provide effective treatments and support for people with dual diagnoses.
  • If a dual diagnosis client first seeks treatment for drug abuse, the drug and alcohol workers may consider their mental illness as a secondary issue or side effect. Similarly, if they first seek treatment for their mental illness, then the mental health professionals may also consider their drug abuse as a secondary issue or side effect. The two problems are often not seen as interdependent and equally important.

More About Mental Health & Drug Addiction

  • About 25 per cent of people with anxiety disorders, affective disorders and substance use disorders also have another mental disorder.
  • Around 64 per cent of psychiatric in-patients may have a current or previous drug use problem.
  • Around 75 per cent of people with alcohol and substance use problems may have a mental illness.
  • About 90 per cent of males with schizophrenia may have a substance use problem.
  • Effective management of either substance use disorders or mental health disorders is challenging. Dual diagnosis can mean an increase in challenging behaviours including self-harm and aggression, avoidance of services, and resistance to or non-compliance with treatment and recovery programs.
  • Research suggests that people with a dual diagnosis respond well to integrated programs that address both their mental illness and their substance abuse.
  • Diagnosis can be difficult, because it isn’t always clear which problem has the more severe symptoms.
  • Mental health services are usually reserved for people with severe problems, so dual diagnosis clients with less severe mental health problems may not get treatment.
  • A person with a mental illness may receive treatment in other programs, but their drug use problem could be dismissed as a minor side effect of their illness.

The number of workers trained in dual diagnosis treatment is slowly increasing. The services for mental health and substance abuse generally don’t overlap, so professionals in one field aren’t knowledgeable about the issues in the other field. It is hard to find professionals who are skilled in treating both substance abuse and mental illness.

“Non-judgemental support helped her immensely. The re-emergence of my real daughter was an extraordinary thing to see – the sunny and caring woman was back, the monster created by drugs was gone.”

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