Many of us in recovery can tell you from experience that trying to get sober on your own rarely works. In fact, many of us tried this before we finally turned to some kind of help. When I was first thinking about getting sober I tried only going to AA meetings. When this didn’t work for me I tried going to only therapy. When I failed again, I finally realized that I needed more help and support. I checked myself into inpatient treatment where I went to regular recovery meetings, had individual and group therapy, and the support of so many people around me. My recovery started working when I became willing to get help from other people. Getting support didn’t mean that I was too weak to do it on my own. It just meant that I realized I didn’t need to make things harder on myself.
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1. Longer Programs Produce Better Results

One big reason not to go at it on your own is that the longer someone stays in treatment the more positive the results. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends a program of at least 90 days of inpatient treatment. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles in inpatient treatment is people dropping out. People who chose to stay in these programs and stay longer often do better than people who leave or go to a shorter program. Psychological research has supported this claim. A 2006 study by Moos & Moos found that those who got help were more likely than those who didn’t to stay sober for at least three years.

2. Addiction Treatment Requires Follow Up

According to the National Institute of Heath, treatment for addiction requires continual follow up and monitoring. This is true of any chronic disorder or disease. For example, if you were suffering from diabetes you might need to be hospitalized and work closely with a doctor until everything stabilized. After that you might step down to regular check ins with the doctor and monitoring your own blood sugar. The same kind of care is needed for addiction. Going to inpatient treatment then following a step down program like intensive outpatient and sober living allows people to have more follow up support in recovery. Follow up like this gives people a big network of people to reach out to when they need help or aren’t doing well.

3. Different Things Work for Different People

Another reason to get support in your early recovery is that different things work for different people. Maybe you know someone who is sober and know what they did in order to start their recovery. The problem is that what works for one person won’t work for everyone. Addiction, treatment, and recovery are not one size fits all. The 1998 MATCH study found that recovery rates depended on matching personal characteristics with the correct type of recovery program for them. In some cases this meant an emphasis on 12 step treatment but for others it meant cognitive behavioral therapy. Although this research is a little dated, the findings still hold true. When finding help for addiction it is important to find the right kind of help. Rather than going it on your own it can be important to reach out to someone who can help you find the right kind of facility or program for you.

4. More is Better

Another reason to get support in your recovery is that doing different recovery activities has an additive effect according to research by Hillhouse, PhD. This means that treatment plus a twelve step program is better than just treatment on its own. Rather than trying to recover from drug an alcohol addiction with self-help books, it is better to do everything that you can. Going to treatment or only attending only AA meetings might work for some people but for most people it is better to do more. This is also a great reason to check out more than one step-based recovery program, have individual and group therapy, and to have a sponsor and a therapist. All of these different recovery activities will help with something different, so do as many as you’re able to!

5. Recovery is More than Abstinence

It is true that recovery often begins with abstinence from drugs, alcohol, or process addictions. However, recovery is much more than abstinence. According to the NIH effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just substance use. It might be possible to stop drinking or doing drugs on your own. However, it is much harder to deal with the underlying causes of the addiction without any help. The reason that so many people turn to professionals for help is that they can treat the root of the problem. Often drug and alcohol abuse is a symptoms of an underlying issue that is unresolved. By getting support you can get help staying clean and feeling better as well.

6. Self-Detox can be Dangerous

This is a huge reason to get support in your recovery. It can be risky and even life threatening to stop taking drugs or alcohol without assistance. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has published research that withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines has caused death in some patients. Klonopin withdrawal, for example, may cause seizures, high blood pressure, and suicidal ideations. Due to the dangers of self-detox it is recommended that people who are trying to come off of drugs or alcohol get help doing so.

7. Medication Might be Necessary

Aside from a medically assisted detox, some people need medication throughout recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration favors what is called medication-assisted treatment. This might not be necessary for all people but some do require medication. For example, during treatment someone might discover that they have an underlying depression or anxiety disorder. If this is the case the treatment plan might include medication. It is very hard if not impossible to get the proper medication if you do not have support from a doctor in your recovery.

8. You’ll Get Help in Other Areas

My final reason to reach out for support is that most treatment programs will help you find a job, go back to school, and find housing when you’re ready. Perhaps you can find a reputable sober companion to work with. As I have said more than once in this post, recovery is about more than just not drinking and using. Having this help to find work or pursue your passion can be incredibly helpful when you are going through a period of change. When you try to get sober by yourself there is no one there to help you navigate these life changes.

 



Holistic Wellness Programs for Treating Addiction and Mental Illness

Philosophers often discuss the difference between “being” and “well-being.” In order to simply “be,” a person or thing must have certain qualities or attributes that define its core essence. These features describe the subject’s basic existence, but they do not address what is necessary to thrive or flourish.

Many treatment facilities tout the core treatments that provide clients with the means to attain sobriety. But there are additional components necessary to help someone achieve the benefits of a happy, healthy life experience.

These benefits address much more than the cessation of problems that led them to treatment in the first place. Instead, they address the broader considerations that make up a fulfilled life and contribute to the person’s “well-being” and not just their “being.”

It is essential for people in recovery to understand and improve all the different parts of their existence, so they can consciously build better lives.

Understanding and Defining Holistic Wellness

“Wellness” is a term that comes up frequently in certain circles, and the term can be used in many ways. Although there are multiple views on exactly what the concept encompasses, the National Wellness Institute, in conjunction with leaders of varying health and wellness fields, has suggested that most models of wellness agree upon the following principles:

  • Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.
  • Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual aspects and the environment.
  • Wellness is positive and affirming.

With these principles in mind, the NWI proposes that, “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.”1

Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.

Wrapping all of this together, we can define “holistic wellness” as the condition of being in optimum overall health, which is a blend of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The condition is the result of consciously choosing to live a quality life; it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a day-to-day choice involving an active process of increasing self-awareness, as well as community-supported, self-directed action.

What Are Holistic Wellness Programs?

The goal of holistic health is to achieve maximum well-being, where everything is functioning in the best way possible. The path of holistic wellness is a life-long journey that emphasizes personal responsibility and commitment.

The path of holistic wellness is a life-long journey that emphasizes personal responsibility and commitment.

Without specific ways to work toward this goal, people would flounder without any ability to truly make progress. That’s where holistic wellness programs come in.

Holistic wellness programs are an essential part of any well-rounded recovery program. These programs comprise the methods that give people the tools to feel more whole as human beings. The features of holistic wellness programs are designed to take into account the entire person as they move forward in their quest for optimal health and wholeness.

Specific program components may include things like individual therapy, meditation, mindfulness and yoga, which promote positive attitudes and teach practical methods for coping with stressful situations. One may also learn about healthy nutrition, the importance of regular physical exercise and other helpful life practices, such as journaling.

Yoga – Posing for Wellness

Yoga is a technique that uses physical postures and controlled breathing to develop many mental and physical benefits.2The postures used in yoga practice are sometimes difficult to achieve or hold, but the purpose goes far beyond merely becoming a human pretzel.

The challenging poses and movements of yoga help create flexibility and strength as they elongate the spine, improve muscle elasticity, reduce stiffness in the joints and increase overall mobility. The focus required during practice also calms the mind, improves concentration and promotes patience. Regular practice is needed to fully experience these benefits.

For those in recovery, yoga offers some specific advantages. For example, many addictions begin as a coping mechanism or a way of filling an emotional or spiritual void. As a result, people in treatment for addiction must learn to deal with their emotions and environment in healthier ways.

Studies of the biological impact of yoga have noted a correlation between yoga and inhibiting the dopamine surge that typically results from using drugs. The studies found that intense breathing patterns in certain forms of yoga release the body’s natural pleasure-producing endorphins. A healthy yoga practice can help suppress addictive behaviors while restoring the brain’s dopamine functions to healthier levels.

Those in recovery know full well that stressful situations can trigger addictive behavior and cravings. The very process of adjusting to sober living can be stressful. Since yoga emphasizes willpower and stress reduction, those in recovery can learn to combat that stress, better resist temptation and regain control over their bodies.

Since yoga emphasizes willpower and stress reduction, those in recovery can learn to combat that stress, better resist temptation and regain control over their bodies.

Meditation – Doing Something Good for Yourself

Meditation is not an esoteric, mystical exercise best left for ascetic monks. Although there are numerous forms of meditation practice arising from various historic traditions, most of them share a simple common principle: intentionally setting aside time to do something good for yourself.

Meditation involves intentionally setting aside time to do something good for yourself.

That may seem like an oversimplification, but it accurately describes the underlying purpose of meditative practices. Whether the form of meditation incorporates bodily movement or is stationary, both emphasize the good that results from quietness of the mind.

The primary goal of developing a sense of inner calm, sometimes called detachment, enables meditation to fit well within the recovery process. This is because overcoming substance abuse disorders often involves a person establishing distance between themselves and their desire to use.

Meditation encourages the practitioner to view their own impulses from a third-person perspective, as they observe and examine their own thoughts and motivations. This is not always easy, but the skill will enable them to gain a psychological detachment from their cravings, along with the ability to properly understand such desires. This helps cultivate contentedness without the need to resort to alcohol or drug abuse.

While the full benefits from meditation may take time, neuroscientists have found that even short-term meditation can have profoundly positive effects on the brain. In one study, after just five 20-minute sessions of meditative technique, participants had increased blood flow to an area of the brain vital to self-control. After 11 hours of accumulated practice, the scientists found actual physical changes in the brain around this same area.3

By building a stronger awareness of themselves and their environment, people in recovery can realize the impact drugs and alcohol have had on their lives and start to discover their triggers. Meditation fosters an appreciation for the mind and body, which builds motivation to treat oneself with respect.

Meditation fosters an appreciation for the mind and body, which builds motivation to treat oneself with respect.

Mindfulness – Moment-by-Moment Awareness

Mindfulness can be a form of meditation, but it is worth distinguishing here in our overview of holistic wellness. Mindfulness-based interventions have shown compelling evidence of significant benefit for people in recovery from addictive disorders.

Though it has roots in Buddhist meditation, the common secular practice of mindfulness was established through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, which was launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.

In its most basic definition, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment. It also involves acceptance of thoughts and feelings without judging them. By removing the tendency to determine what is “right” or “wrong” with a certain thought or feeling, a person is more able to concentrate on what they’re sensing in the moment, rather than comparing it with the past or imagining the future.

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.

Thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness. Because the practice promotes nonjudgmental acceptance of moment-to-moment thoughts, mindfulness has been shown to interrupt the tendency to respond to experiences using harmful behaviors, such as substance use. As the individual learns to respond with awareness and not to react automatically, they are also more likely to resist cravings.4

For individuals in recovery, the struggle with temptations toward drugs or alcohol is inevitable. Mindfulness meditation is one way to gain awareness of these thoughts, accept them without feelings of guilt or shame and learn how to cope in healthier ways.

Physical Fitness – Strong Body and Mind

It’s no secret that regular exercise is good for the body. But physical exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve mental health. Exercise has a profound and positive impact upon symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD and more. In addition to boosting overall mood, exercise relieves stress, improves memory and helps people sleep better.

In addition to boosting overall mood, exercise relieves stress, improves memory and helps people sleep better.

But don’t worry, there’s no need to become a hardcore fitness devotee. Research indicates that even modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference, as evidenced by the popularity of such things as the scientific 7-minute workout.5

No matter what fitness plan or routine one may settle into, there are definitely worthwhile rewards for the efforts. Here are some outstanding examples of the mental health benefits of exercise:6

  • Reduce Stress. Working out can relieve physical and mental tension and increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Regular exercise keeps energy flowing throughout the body, which enhances its stress reducing properties.
  • Boost Happy Chemicals. Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among people suffering from depression or anxiety due to increased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
  • Improve Self-Confidence. Physical fitness boosts self-esteem and improves self-image. Regardless of a person’s particular physique, even moderate exercise can quickly elevate self-perception and self-worth. Engaging in a competitive sport, or just setting your own fitness goals leads to feelings of accomplishment, which also improve feelings of self-confidence.
  • Prevent Cognitive Decline. While it won’t stop the aging process, exercise boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. Science has found that people who exercise have sharper cognitive functioning and better ability to concentrate.
  • Alleviate Anxiety. During and after exercise, chemicals released in the body can help people with anxiety disorders calm down even more effectively than a 20-minute soak in the hot tub. The anxiety-reducing effects of even just a brisk daily walk can be highly beneficial to individuals in recovery.
  • Boost Brainpower. More than merely preventing decline, studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Some studies show that the brain volume in those who exercise regularly is greater than in those who do not.
  • Regular workouts increase levels of a protein known as BDNF. This is believed to help with the executive functions of the brain, such as decision making, higher thinking and learning.
  • Sharpen Memory. Regular physical activity enhances the ability to learn new things. Research has linked brain development with levels of physical fitness, and one study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
  • Help Control Addiction. Dopamine, which is known as the brain’s “reward chemical,” is released in response to any form of pleasure, including sex, drugs, alcohol or food. One aspect of addiction involves dependency on the substances that produce dopamine. But exercise can help in recovery, since working out can effectively diminish and distract from cravings, while providing a new, healthy reward pathway.
  • Increase Relaxation and Improve Sleep. Often those in recovery find their body processes are interrupted, including circadian or sleep rhythms. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, enabling people to relax and have more regular sleep cycles. Those who get a higher quality of sleep tend to function better during their daytime activities, have a more positive frame of mind, and have better emotional self-regulation.
  • Get More Done. Those who exercise regularly have been shown to have higher energy levels, which leads to greater productivity. Sedentary people tire more easily and quickly, leaving less mojo for work and play. Exercise increases stamina and strength, increasing energy levels that benefit the individual throughout the day.

Journaling – Insights for Life

Journaling is an effective tool with widespread use among those recovering from an addiction. It has been called the least expensive, most accessible form of therapy, and it can produce meaningful results for those who take advantage of it for gaining insights into their own life.

Keeping a journal is straightforward; it requires writing down brief thoughts, ideas, observations, stories, important events, successes during recovery or even a simple record of an exercise routine.

There are numerous methods and styles of journaling, and each person can adopt an approach that fits their personality and schedule. There’s no need to be verbose; even a single word that captures a feeling or mood can provide powerful insights, which lead to better understanding and discernment.

Writing in a journal encourages people to think critically and examine their thoughts and assumptions. Clearer thinking helps overcome negativity, reduces stress and may even lower the risk of relapse. Journaling is also a way to track progress and increase motivation. Journals are private expressions, recorded without fear of judgment.

Journaling also helps with stress relief. Just putting down on paper the emotions being experienced in recovery can give them a place to reside, other than rattling around in one’s head. Think of journaling as a repository for thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and goals. A place to safely unload all the things that might be taking up too much space in one’s head.

Writing in a journal encourages people to think critically and examine their thoughts and assumptions.

The point is not the subject of the writing or the amount of writing. Instead, it’s about taking the time to write and engage in personal introspection. After journaling for a few months, many are amazed when they look back to see where they were and where they are now. In some cases, they are encouraged by how far they’ve come. Other times they may be surprised to find they’re revisiting old habits.7

Holistic Individual Therapy – Building Skills for the Future

Recovery and rehabilitation frequently involves therapy. Holistic therapy takes an integrated approach and pays attention to the connections between a person’s mind, body and spirit.

Unlike some forms of therapy, which seek to treat the symptoms, holistic therapy sessions try to uncover the underlying causes that led to substance abuse or contributed to other unhealthy behaviors. Holistic therapists use multiple approaches to address issues and encourage self-awareness and self-acceptance in those in recovery.

One such therapy is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). This is a type of CBT that utilizes the mindfulness training so important in cultivating a healthy mind-body connection. MBCT is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness stress reduction program, and has been found useful in treating individuals in addiction recovery. MBCT combines the concepts of CBT, which involve reframing dysfunctional thought patterns that lead to self-destructive behaviors, with meditative practices.

Holistic therapists use multiple approaches to address issues and encourage self-awareness and self-acceptance in those in recovery.

Counselors or therapists typically provide a variety of services to people in treatment for substance use disorders, including assessment, treatment planning and counseling. Individual counseling often focuses on reducing or stopping substance use, skill building, adherence to a recovery plan and social, family and professional/educational outcomes.8

Nutrition Education – Fueling the Healing Process

Improper nutrition can severely hinder the normal functioning of the body, including its ability to heal and overcome illness. Drugs and alcohol can further amplify the disruptive effects of a poor diet. Improving nutrition is essential for diminishing and correcting some of the biochemical and digestive problems often developed during addiction.9

Improving nutrition is essential for diminishing and correcting some of the biochemical and digestive problems often developed during addiction.

Proper nutrition helps those in recovery (and everyone else) feel better because nutrients give the body energy, help build and repair organ tissue and strengthen the immune system. Many people experience damage to vital organs, as well as nutritional deficiencies, during the course of their drug or alcohol abuse. Establishing good nutrition provides them with the crucial building blocks needed to begin restoring the damage to the brain and the body.

Mood and attitude are also affected by nutrition. Changes in the diet can alter brain structure both chemically and physiologically, thus influencing behavior. Certain foods have been connected to increased production of brain chemicals like serotonin, which enhances a person’s mood.

Using healthy food and regular meals to fuel the healing process is an important strategy for reaching optimal well-being and energizing the recovery process. In many cases, just feeling better due to proper diet can even reduce the risk of relapse, since the temptations may have less appeal.

Examples of nutritious meal options that enhance both psychological and physical healing and wellbeing include:

  • Lean protein sources
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Whole grains
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes

Limiting caffeine, sugary beverages, sugary treats, and processed foods will also improve overall health.

Other Holistic Activities

Any activity that fosters feelings of serenity will benefit someone in recovery. Adding these activities into the weekly or daily wellness routine can augment the effects of psychotherapy and other recovery activities. Holistic activities help to cement the positive effects of sobriety by providing ongoing coping tools that can be accessed as needed.

Other holistic activities or therapies might include:

  • Massage therapy. A relaxation massage helps muscles release the toxins that build up in the body due to daily stress and worry
  • Acupuncture. The use of tiny needles on specific areas of the body help open up blocked energy, leading to stress reduction and reduced cravings
  • Equine therapy. Being involved in the care, feeding, and exercising of a horse is an excellent source of accountability, leading to improved self-confidence. Bonding with a horse is also deeply satisfying on an emotional level
  • Gardening therapy. Being outdoors provides sun exposure that translates to increased vitamin D, which benefits mood. The process of cultivating plants, vegetables, or flowers is rewarding, giving one a sense of accomplishment
  • Aromatherapy. Essential oils can be used topically or inhaled through vapors to induce relaxation and reduce stress
  • Hypnotherapy. A hypnotherapist can guide the individual toward changing negative thoughts and replacing them with affirming thoughts and behaviors
  • Guided meditation. These audio files are available on apps or downloads and offer a soothing voice to guide one into a meditative state, which induces relaxation.

Bringing It All Together

Hopefully, this overview of holistic wellness programs was encouraging and highlighted the many benefits of such an approach to recovery. But more than as just a means to recovery, programs focused on holistic wellness bring together the tools and knowledge for lifelong preventative and restorative health solutions. This provides the essentials for achieving a healthy body and mind, allowing each person to take responsibility for their own well-being as they progress in their recovery journey.

Sources:

  1. Six Dimensions of Wellness. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nationalwellness.org
  2. Pizer, A. (2016, April). What is Yoga? Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/what-is-yoga-3566739
  3. Tang, Y.; Lu, Q.; Geng, X.; Stein, E. A.; Yang, Y. and Posner, M. I. (2010, August). Short-term Meditation Induces White Matter Changes in the Anterior Cingulate. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/107/35/15649.full
  4. Marcus, M. T. and Zgierska, A. (2009). Mindfulness-Based Therapies for Substance Use Disorders: Part 1. Substance Abuse, 30(4), 263. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1080/08897070903250027
  5. Reynolds, G. (2013, May). The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout
  6. Breene, S. (2013, March). 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/mental-health-benefits-exercise_n_2956099.html
  7. Howes, R. (2011, January). Journaling in Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201101/journaling-in-therapy
  8. Treatment for Substance Abuse Disorders. (2015, September). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders
  9. Miller, R. (2010, May). Nutrition in Addiction Recovery. Retrieved from http://mhof.net/sites/default/files/Addiction%20and%20Recovery%20Report.pdf
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Who Can Benefit

The term dual diagnosis refers to a condition in which a person has both a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder simultaneously. Each condition worsens the other, intensifying symptoms and complicating recovery.

A dual diagnosis approach offers integrated treatment options, which significantly improves outcomes over traditional therapy approaches that do not differentiate the two conditions.

Diversity of Dual Disorders

Even though studies may group people together when they suffer from mental illnesses and addictions, most treatment providers agree that there is no single type of dual disorder. As a broad category, dual diagnosis involves a host of different possible illnesses and conditions.

From mild depression to severe bipolar disorder, any mental illnesses recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders can be part of a dual diagnosis when combined with substance abuse. These mental disorders become increasingly complex when a person suffering from the illness also abuses drugs or alcohol. Therefore, such situations warrant a dual diagnosis and a simultaneous treatment protocol.

The symptoms people experience vary greatly depending on the mental illness involved. Some forms of psychiatric illness can impair an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis, while another mental illness might only cause periodic impairment.

When substance abuse is added to the mix, the nature of dual disorders becomes even more diverse. For example, depending on the particular substance being abused, a person may feel sedated and calm, while another person may feel energized or paranoid. Both patients could have a dual diagnosis, but their disease modalities are unique, so the specific treatment paths would also be different.

Importance of Integrated Treatment

For the reasons noted above, effective treatment for individuals with a dual diagnosis necessarily involves an integrated treatment plan. This means that both conditions—the mental disorder and the addiction—will be treated at the same time.

If only one problem is treated at a time, it leaves the other problem in place. Since the two conditions aggravate each other, there is an elevated risk for continued imbalance that may severely impair recovery. For real, lasting improvement and healing to occur, both issues must be addressed together.

Effective integrated treatment can involve inpatient or outpatient programs, depending on the nature and severity of the symptoms. Both types of programs typically include the following features:

  • Parallel treatment of mental health and substance use disorders
  • Balanced use of psychotherapeutic medications, such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds
  • Group and/or individual therapy that builds self-confidence and restores self-esteem
  • Ongoing recovery strategy, including education, as well as the involvement of partners, spouses, children and family members

Reaping the Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

A study in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse found that many with a dual diagnosis had related issues that significantly impacted the quality of their lives. In addition to the symptoms inherent to their illnesses, they experienced things like:

  • Poor family and social relationships
  • Undesirable living arrangements
  • A history of arrest
  • Previous psychiatric hospitalizations
  • A history of abusing multiple drugs

Anyone struggling with the compound symptoms of co-occurring disorders could benefit from a dual diagnosis treatment. Integrated treatment offers better outcomes for severe cases of addiction, including users of multiple substances and users with severe forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

People with a dual diagnosis frequently need more intensive help in order to achieve sobriety. The diversity and effectiveness of integrated treatment offers the understanding care and specialized assistance they need.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment What Is It

For a long time, people experiencing the symptoms of mental health disorders where treated separately from those needing help with drug or alcohol abuse. Mental illnesses were sometimes ignored or those with overlapping conditions were frequently denied treatment for their psychiatric disorders until the substance abuse was under control.

This began to change in the 1990s with the advent of dual diagnosis treatment. This relatively new concept in addiction recovery involves recognizing that someone can experience mental illness and substance abuse simultaneously.

Determining the Dual Diagnosis

Although dual diagnosis is a broad category, there are two key factors involved in determining whether the diagnosis is warranted.

An individual must meet the criteria for mental illness as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is an official guideline for mental health professionals and is used for diagnosing and treating patients. A dual diagnosis also requires symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction or abuse.

In other words, someone experiencing a mental health condition could be using drugs to self-medicate, in an effort to improve their troubling mental health symptoms. On the other hand, if someone is abusing drugs, they could trigger or intensify an underlying mental health condition.

The diagnosis does not require identifying which of these issues developed first; it only requires that both be present.

Co-Occurring Symptoms and Dual Diagnosis

When both a mental health illness and a substance use disorder coexist, they are referred to as co-occurring disorders. People with mental health disorders are more likely to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder than are those without mental health disorders.

According to information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Alliance of Mental Illness, the frequency of co-occurring disorders is significant:

  • Approximately 7.9 million adults had co-occurring disorders in 2014.
  • About one third of people experiencing mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.
  • About fifty percent of those living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.
  • Men are more likely to develop co-occurring disorders than women.
  • Military veterans, individuals with lower socioeconomic status and people with general medical illnesses have particularly high risk for co-occurring disorders.

Dual diagnosis is a relatively new approach for identifying and treating people with these co-occurring disorders. Unlike times in the past, where one set of symptoms may have been ignored or left untreated, individuals with co-occurring disorders can now receive integrated treatment.

With a dual diagnosis, practitioners can address mental and substance use disorders at the same time, creating better outcomes for their patients.

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis

Although there are numerous variables for treating someone with a dual diagnosis, it commonly involves an integrated intervention. In this treatment, the patient receives care for both the substance abuse and any identified mental illness.

Addiction often has to do with trauma, anxiety, depression and chemical imbalances in the brain. Those struggling with addiction frequently try to relieve their own pain through drugs or alcohol.

But if they have struggled with an undiagnosed mental illness, getting a dual diagnosis can bring great relief. Identifying a specific mental condition that may be contributing to the substance abuse can give a tremendous sense of hope and open new doors for effective treatment.

Mental disorders and addiction have multiple underlying causes, but dual diagnosis treatment deals with these simultaneously, enabling a full and lasting recovery.

Take Control Making the Decision to Get Treatment

When people make the choice to get addiction treatment, they should remember that getting help is not an admission of failure. People don’t need to feel bad about their choice not to fight this battle alone—that’s what treatment is for. Choosing to get help means that they recognize the problem, and they accept responsibility for their lives and their choices going forward.

There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” It doesn’t matter what people have been through in the past, or how many mistakes they’ve made; making the decision to get treatment is standing up that eighth time.

Choosing Treatment

Making the choice to get treatment can bring out a lot of emotions. Admitting to needing help, picking the right treatment center and experiencing the symptoms of detox can be overwhelming. That’s a lot of change.

Family issues often develop alongside addiction. Healing family ties will help people be able to move on from past traumas and disputes and focus solely on feeling better. Family will likely be their strongest support network, so it is important to be honest with one another and develop an open line of communication. Each wound that is healed is a great stride toward cleansing their lives and healing their mind and body.

Get the Right Information

Seeking treatment is most effective if a person chooses a facility that fits their personality and needs. To do that, it’s best to start gathering information about various treatment facilities. It’s important not to just pick the closest place, but instead choose the facility that is best equipped to deal with their particular situation. Out-of-state treatment is significantly more effective than in-state treatment because it removes people from their triggering areas of familiarity and makes it much more difficult to give up and go home.

The types of programs available and cost of treatment are also something to consider. It would be nice if people didn’t have to worry about the price tag, but that’s not realistic. They should look into how much the treatment will cost and what the payment options are. Talking to experienced counselors can help them make the right choice when it comes to treatment.

Follow Through with the Recovery Plan

After determining which facility is right for them, it’s time to follow through with the treatment plan. Just reading and learning about their condition and the various types of treatment is not going to make the problem go away. Making the decision to get treatment is hard, but taking control of their lives will lead themto a much happier, brighter future.

That first step can be scary. It’s stepping into the unknown, onto a path that they may not have walked before. But their new life of health and success will greatly outweigh these brief moments of discomfort.

Relapse Triggers

Addiction recovery is a long road, but it is one that is worth traveling. As with any journey, there are a plethora of ways to reach the destination—some longer, some shorter—but the important thing is to keep moving forward. Sometimes there are roadblocks, though. Sometimes things like peer pressure, cravings or depression slowly creep in and narrow the pathway until it is completely blocked, causing a relapse.

People on the path to recovery may stumble and fall down for a bit, but theycan always get back up. It’s just a matter of remembering the purpose of their journey and pushing forward. In order to continue on the path to recovery, it’s important to be able to recognize and combat common triggers of relapse.

Make New Friends

While people are in rehab, they’re away from everyone who they used to abuse drugs or alcohol with. They’re safe. But once they return to day-to-day life, that all changes. They’re submerged back into the world where they used, but all of a sudden they’re no longer using. It’s a huge life change. The good news is that with the right support group and sober friends, they will be able to enjoy life in a brand new way.

It is important for anyone in recovery to have a good network in place of people who support their sobriety. That way people know where to go and what to do when they begin feeling desperate—instead of turning back to drugs. They could even start to make a difference in other people’s lives. The important thing is removing themselves from as many triggering events as possible, including old friends.

Avoid Pink Cloud Syndrome

It is common for people who find their sobriety and start living in recovery to believe that they are no longer at risk for relapse. They’re living a new life, and addiction can’t touch them anymore. This is called pink cloud syndrome. The unfortunate truth is that addiction is a disease, and no matter how long they’re sober, they’re still in recovery.

People who experience pink cloud syndrome paint a false picture around themselves as a way to cope with the after-effects of addiction. They feel unable to cope on their own, so they remove themselves from reality. Sadly, this type of thinking only ends in heartache and, sometimes, relapse.

Deal with Stress in a Healthy Way

Sometimes the emotions, problems and situations that first led a person to using will also lead them to relapse. This means that they have to be especially careful during recovery when life gets tough. If a person loses a job, argues with their significant other or faces everyday challenges, it is vital that they are educated on how to handle high levels of stress without falling back into substance abuse. These life skills can be difficult to learn, but with the proper help from a professional counselor, they’ll be able to take anything the world can throw at them.

Don’t Lose Hope

Relapse can be scary. But it is avoidable with a proper relapse prevention plan. People should take any opportunity to put an advantage in their corner. Paying attention to common triggers and learning how to cope with them in a healthy way—or avoiding them altogether—will allow them to stay on the path to recovery. It is a beautiful journey, after all.