Magellan Health

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Dual Diagnosis

What is Dual Diagnosis?

A person who is misusing alcohol or drugs and feelings of being upset, angry or not feeling like themselves is said to have Dual Diagnosis. To get better, the person needs help for both problems.

How Common Is It?

It is very common:

  • 37% of people who drink a lot and 53% percent of people who use drugs also have at least one emotional illness.
  • People who have an emotional illness, 29% misuse alcohol or drugs.

What Kinds of Problems are Common in People with it?

The following are common in people who use alcohol or drugs a lot and in the wrong way.

  • Depressive disorders , such as depression and bipolar disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders , including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias.
  • Other mental disorders , such as schizophrenia and personality disorders.

Which Comes First?

For some people the emotional problem usually come first. To feel happier, a person with an emotional problem might drink or use drugs. Doctors call this "self-medication". It may lead a person to use alcohol or drugs in the wrong way. If it does, the person then suffers from not just one problem, but two.

In teens, drug or alcohol abuse may lead to problems later in life. This may lead to emotional problems. Other times, using alcohol or drugs in a wrong way is the main problem. When a person's problem becomes worse, it may lead into an emotional illness. This may include depression, anger, strange thoughts, or they may try to kill themselves.

How Can a Doctor Tell What is the Biggest Problem?

At first, it may be hard to tell what the biggest problem is. This is because alcohol or drug problems may look like other problems. The person must first get the alcohol or drugs out of their body. Then the doctor can tell if there's an emotional problem also.

Which Problem Should They Get Help for First?

A person should get help for both problems at the same time. For any person using drugs or alcohol in the wrong way, they should first stop using the alcohol or drugs to get it out of their body. They should do this with a doctor and it can take a few days to a week or more.

Removing alcohol or drugs from the body can be very painful. Doctors can give them medicine to help make it less painful. When the alcohol or drugs are completely out of the body, it's safer and easier.

What Is Next?

A person should now get help for both problems. Getting together with people who have the same problem can help a lot. Learning about the problem can also help a lot. Eating right, working out and getting into a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous can also help a person get better. A person has to learn to be happy without alcohol or drugs.

A doctor can help a person find the right kind of help. Talking to other people who have the same problem and getting medicine from a doctor can help a lot. Joining a group with other people who have the same problem may also help. In these groups people can talk about their feelings and learn ways to keep them from drinking or using drugs.

Does a Person Have to Get Help in a Hospital?

Not all the time. It depends on how bad the illness is. It also depends on any problems they may have had before getting help. There are many kinds of help out there. These include going into the hospital or getting help from a different place where they only go in for just part of the time.

Can the Family Help?

A family's help is very important. They can help the person get care from a doctor, learn about the problem and get help from groups who have the same problem. When a family learns and understands the problem, the person with the problem will get better sooner.

How Can Family and Friends Help?

Yes, family and friends can help. They can help by learning to stop letting the person use alcohol or drugs. Here's an example -a woman whose husband drinks too much might call in sick for him when he is too drunk to go to work. That's letting the person continue with their problem. Also, family or friends might give the person money to buy drugs because they feel sorry or are afraid of him or her. That's also letting the person continue with their problem.

The best way to help someone is to get them help. At that point they learn how to stop letting the person continue with their problem. If they use what they have learned, the person is less likely to go back to drinking or taking drugs.

How Can Family and Friends Help with a Person With an Emotional Problem?

They should be calm and understanding, rather than frightened or hard on the person. They should be warm and open. Although it is fine to ask the person how they are doing with the help they are getting, also talk about other things, not just that.

How Can I Help When I think Someone Has These Problems?

Help the person to see that they may have a problem and that they need to get help. Talk to them about seeing a doctor. If the person doesn't want to do it, look for a doctor, make the appointment and go with the person to see the doctor. A little support from you may be all it takes. If you talk to the doctor first, be honest about what you are seeing. This can help the doctor a lot.

There Is Hope

You can play a big part in helping a person get the help they need. By learning about it, you can help this person find and stay with a good program that will work for them. As with any illness, a person can get better once they get the right help. By looking for more information, you can learn to see the signs of it and help someone live a better life.

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Contact Information

Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care (Mercy Maricopa) is now the Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) serving members in the Maricopa County Region. For questions regarding your services, please call 1-800-564-5465 or TDD/TTY 711.

** To file a grievance or appeal for services provided on or before March 31, 2014 please call Magellan Health Services 602-652-5907, x8590