What is dual diagnosis?
A person with dual diagnosis has both a mental disorder and an alcohol or drug problem. These conditions occur together frequently. About half of people who have a mental disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa. The interactions of the two conditions can worsen both.
Why do substance use disorders and mental disorders occur together?
Although these problems often occur together, this does not mean that one caused the other, even if one appeared first. In fact, it can be hard to figure out which came first. Researchers think that there are three possibilities as to why they occur together:
- Common risk factors may contribute to both mental disorders and substance use disorders. These factors include genetics, stress, and trauma.
- Mental disorders can contribute to drug use and substance use disorders. For example, people with mental disorders may use drugs or alcohol to try to feel better temporarily. This is known as self-medication. Also, mental disorders may change the brain to make it more likely you will become addicted.
- Substance use and addiction can contribute to the development of a mental disorder. Substance use may change the brain in ways that make you more likely to develop a mental disorder.
What are the treatments for dual diagnosis?
Someone with a dual diagnosis must treat both conditions. For the treatment to be effective, you need to stop using alcohol or drugs. Treatments may include behavioral therapies and medicines. Also, support groups can give you emotional and social support. They are also a place where people can share tips about how to deal with day-to-day challenges.
NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Alcohol Abuse and Other Psychiatric Disorders (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
- Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism: Are They Related? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Co-Occurring: Mental Health and Substance Abuse (Mental Health America)
- Comorbidity (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders (National Institute of Mental Health)
- Substance Use Disorders (NAMI) Also in Spanish
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of patients with a dual diagnosis...
- Article: Examining the Link Between Intolerance of Uncertainty and Positive and Negative...
- Article: Improving the treatment of patients with dual diagnosis in emergency departments.
- Dual Diagnosis -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- FindTreatment.gov (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)