Nowadays, dual diagnosis treatment brings the most successful aspects and methods of treatment from both mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment. An easier way to grasp this is by looking at these treatments as colors. Before dual diagnosis, there was mental health treatment, which we can visualize as being red, and substance abuse treatment, which can be blue. Over time, experts and medical professionals have successfully blended together both of them to make dual diagnosis treatment, purple.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is defined as “the condition of suffering from a mental illness and a comorbid substance abuse problem” at the same time. As a relatively new method of treatment, dual diagnosis treatment has been crucial in helping those with disorders or disabilities. Until the 1990s, those who suffered from mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, delusion, or mood swings went through entirely different treatment than those who suffered from substance abuse.

When drug addiction and mental health disorders overlap, treatment centers used to deny most clients from enrolling in mental health treatment until they were sober. Eventually, this was seen as counterproductive seeing that many cases of drug addiction were fueled by underlying psychiatric disorders. Thus, those with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental health disorders almost never got the proper treatment they need.

If you or someone you know meets the criteria for being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, as well as an addictive disorder, dual diagnosis would be the most effective and beneficial course of action. Seeing as dual diagnosis treatment can help both your mental and addiction disorder.


Because of the complications of mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders interacting with each other, the symptoms of dual diagnosis can vary greatly. To aid in dual diagnosis, many medical experts use evidence-based screening tools to detect whether or not someone may be dually diagnosed.

The drug-addiction-related symptoms include the following:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Uninterest in previously exciting activities
  • Showing withdrawal symptoms (shaking, sweating, insomnia, agitation, etc.)
  • Lack of control over substance intake
  • In the case of prescription drugs, doctor shopping (going to multiple doctors for multiple diagnoses and thus multiple prescriptions)


Because dual diagnosis encompasses all mental health disorders, it would be too long of a list to name all of the symptoms of all mental health disorders. However, many mental disorders have common symptoms, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Short temper

The Process

Though the different methods used to treat those that are dually diagnosed, the general process of treatment programs usually follows the same path. A client will start with medical detox, then go through either an inpatient or outpatient program, then finish off with aftercare and relapse prevention.


As the first obstacle in drug treatment, detoxification may pose a challenge to those that have been dually diagnosed. Though outpatient detox and inpatient detox both can be used to clean the body of any residue or toxins from past addiction, inpatient detox is most effective in preventing relapse due to the fact that the patient will be supervised and attended to 24-7 by medical experts.

Detox may include the tapering off of the previously addicted substance or substitute medications to ease a client out of addiction into full sobriety. Not only are medications effective, safer substitutes for previously addicted substances, but certain medications such as benzodiazepines are very useful in helping to treat the withdrawal symptoms associated with detox.

outpatient programs

Outpatient Treatment

After detox, a patient that has received a dual diagnosis will either be admitted to an outpatient or an inpatient treatment program. Both are effective in treating dual diagnosis, and whether or not someone gets admitted into outpatient or inpatient depends on the severity of their dual diagnosis.

Outpatient treatment is tailored towards those who require treatment but have a stable living condition at home. Only visiting the center a few times a week, for between three to nine hours each session, a patient that is participating in an outpatient program will have a chance to upkeep their social life as well as any other out-of-treatment responsibilities they may have, such as work, school, and family.

Inpatient Treatment

If not admitted to an outpatient treatment, a patient with a dual diagnosis will benefit greatly from inpatient treatment programs. In inpatient treatment, a client will be provided 24-7 medical and mental health care similar to that of detox. An inpatient will experience different methods such as therapy (both group and individual), medication, and support groups in order to best combat their dual diagnosis.

Residential treatment falls under inpatient treatment, as both include the patient living and participating in treatment on-site during treatment. The main difference between residential and inpatient treatment is that residential treatment programs grant much more freedom and responsibility than regular, intensive inpatient programs do. A resident will not be monitored 24-7 but will have access to the same resources that inpatients do.

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

Just as important as detox, aftercare is essential in ensuring that a recent graduate will continue to stay sober outside of treatment. Losing sobriety is referred to as “relapse,” and although it is common, relapse should never be considered acceptable. Even though relapse can help understand the roots of the mental health disorder and/or addiction, it very often leads to the building of another addiction.

Self-help and support groups are very effective in dealing with a dual diagnosis and dual diagnosis aftercare. 12-step groups and outpatient programs have been shown as effective in relapse prevention and being around other alumni that have suffered addiction and mental health disorders as you have may easily give you the support you need to stay sober.





Types of Dual Diagnosis Therapy Techniques

When it comes to addiction treatment, there are many different methods and techniques that are used. While some may be effective in certain cases and some may not be as effective, there are a few that are especially effective in dual diagnosis treatment. Every professional, high-quality treatment center will make a recovery plan for you specifically, but there are a few types of therapies you will most likely encounter.


As one of the most popular methods seen in addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) proves time and time again to be extremely effective in combating substance abuse. CBT teaches patients how to make better life choices and other decision-making techniques, making it exceptional in treating dual diagnosis. Patients in CBT have a more active, hands-on experience in treatment and will be much more involved than other addiction treatment methods that prefer a more passive approach.

Because it involves the patient so extensively, CBT provides a patient an entirely new way to experience recovery. Tasks like homework are great for those that require around-the-clock attention for their addiction, and CBT provides that and more.

Patients enrolled in cognitive behavioral therapy explore their mental health disorders in detail. CBT involves a professional asking the client questions pertaining to their mental health disorder, such as why the client may act or feel a certain way in a particular situation. In answering these questions, the client subliminally begins to develop a more thought-out, rational point of view as to the reason behind their mental health disorder.


Alternative therapies are less-intensive activities, the goal of which is to reduce stress levels and generally make recovery easier on the client. Stress plays a large role in determining the success of recovery, so decreasing stress levels of clients is always a priority. If a client is uncomfortable in recovery, it should be brought to their case manager’s or the treatment center management’s attention.

Common stress-reducing alternative therapies include:

  • Guided Imagery
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Self-hypnosis
  • Progressive Relaxation

To use these methods effectively, it is vital that you learn these techniques from trained individuals. If done incorrectly, these methods may even increase stress and be counterproductive to a patient’s recovery process. Always make sure you are supervised by a professional when you start these techniques until you are able to engage in them by yourself.

Seek Treatment Today

It may seem painfully hopeless when you or someone you know is first diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, and at Maryland House Detox, we understand that. Dual diagnosis can be treated and the quicker a victim of dual diagnosis seeks help, the more effective treatment will be.

At Maryland House Detox, we take pride in being a part of your recovery story. By putting the client first, we always ensure that every case is treated as a separate one, and our team of medical professionals, doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists are ready to create a treatment plan for you. Call us today at (888) 263-0631 or contact us online and let one of our 24-7 specialists help you begin your journey to sobriety.