Just the Facts:  Dual Diagnosis

Dial diagnosis 2Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously. Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first. A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to improve the troubling mental health symptoms they experience. Abusing substances can also lead to mental health problems because of the effects drugs have on a person’s moods, thoughts, brain chemistry and behavior.


The defining characteristic of dual diagnosis is that both a mental health and substance abuse disorder occur simultaneously. Because there are many combinations of disorders that can occur, the symptoms of dual diagnosis vary widely. The symptoms of substance abuse may include:

  • Using substances under dangerous conditions.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors when drunk or high.
  • Doing things you wouldn’t normally do to maintain your habit.
  • Developing tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Feeling like you need the drug to be able to function.

 How is a dual diagnosis treated?

The most common method of treatment for dual diagnosis today is integrated interventions, where a person receives care for both a specific mental illness and substance abuse.

  • Detoxification
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation
  • Intensive Outpatient
  • Traditional Outpatient
  • Medications
  • Psychotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Medical Services
  • Self-help and Support Groups
– See more at: NAMI Website