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Dual diagnosis treatment is a term used by drug rehab centers to describe the complex relationship between addiction and mental illness.
According to James Garbutt, MD and professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, "Mental illnesses can increase the risk for alcoholism or drug abuse, sometimes because of self medicating. On the other hand, alcoholism can lead to significant anxiety and depression that may appear indistinguishable from a mental illness. Finally, one disorder can be worse than the other."
Drug rehab centers know that the debate about dual diagnosis treatment and which disorder underlies the other is irrelevant when attempting to save patient lives. It makes no difference to doctors at drug rehab centers whether or not the mental illness preceded the addiction or vice versa when caring for a patient who is both mentally ill and addicted. The most important factor to consider is that each disorder affects the other, but they must be treated separately.
For instance, addiction therapy alone will not curb a mental illness, and prescribing medication for a mental illness will not stop a person from returning to active addiction. Drug rehab centers that specialize in dual diagnosis treatment are the best option for people who may be wondering whether or not they are both mentally ill and addicted. If no mental illness is present, an addicted person at a dual diagnosis treatment center will still receive the help they desperately need. If someone is mentally ill but does not get treated in a dual diagnosis treatment center, they may receive help only for their addiction while their mental illness gets ignored by those not qualified to help in the first place.