Skip to content

Toll Free. Privacy Guaranteed. No commitment.

Explore our Unique Clinical Programming!

Contact Us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Dual Diagnosis Treatments

If you’re struggling with substance abuse and mental health concerns, you’re not alone. The Treatment Advocacy Center estimates that one in four people with a serious mental health problem also experience addiction. People with coexisting substance abuse and mental health disorders are often described as having a dual diagnosis.

Treating substance abuse disorders alongside coexisting mental health issues is challenging, but you can achieve relief with the right support. Let’s explore how dual-diagnosis treatment can help you recover from mental health disorders and gain freedom from addiction.


What They Are and How They Work

Dual-diagnosis treatment programs support people with substance use disorders and mental health problems, helping them recover from addiction and achieve better mental health. Unlike traditional “singular-approach” models that treat either substance abuse or mental health disorders, dual-diagnosis programs treat both problems simultaneously.

The principle underpinning dual-diagnosis treatment plans is that it’s easier to recover from addiction if you treat underlying mental health concerns, and vice versa. Beachway is one of the leading dual-diagnosis treatment centers in Florida, providing rounded, holistic support to people with mental health and addiction issues.


What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?

Dual-diagnosis occurs when a person with substance abuse and addiction issues also experiences a co-occurring mental disorder, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and clinical and major depression. Some providers refer to these conditions as “co-occurring disorders” or “comorbid disorders.”

The most common substance involved in dual diagnosis is marijuana, followed by alcohol. However, the condition can also occur when you abuse other drugs and prescription medications, including opioids, stimulants, and even cigarettes.

Dual diagnosis is relatively common. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 7.7 million American adults experience substance use disorders and accompanying mental health issues. In other words, nearly 38% of people with addiction also have a mental illness.

The symptoms of dual diagnosis are often similar to substance abuse and mental health disorders. People with co-occurring conditions may experience:

  • Lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Weight changes
  • Sleep problems
  • Uncontrollable urges to misuse substances
  • Social withdrawal
  • Risky behaviors
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Alcohol or drug use to manage mental health symptoms, such as flashbacks or low mood
  • Increased mental health symptoms after drinking alcohol or using drugs

Having a co-occurring mental health problem can make addiction recovery more challenging, as some people use illegal substances to self-treat their emotional or physical symptoms. Furthermore, substance abuse can increase your risk of developing certain mental health disorders. For example, research shows that chronic opioid use may increase your risk of developing major depressive disorder. Meanwhile, marijuana abuse can cause schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

People with addictions and comorbid mental health disorders often find themselves stuck in a vicious circle of using drugs to relieve their distress, which can worsen their mental health problems. Alcohol and other illicit substances may also make certain drugs prescribed to treat mental health disorders less effective. Therefore, dual diagnosis is complex and difficult to treat without the right expertise.

However, recovery is often possible with specialized treatment. Providers experienced in treating people with dual diagnoses understand how addiction and mental health problems interact and treat both issues simultaneously.

Treating both the addiction and any comorbid mental health disorders can help reduce the risk of relapse and help you enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle. Beachway’s therapists have extensive knowledge of dual-diagnosis disorders and use specialized treatment programs to help people recover from mental illness and achieve freedom from addiction.


Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Model

The most appropriate dual-diagnosis treatment model varies between individuals, and your therapist can help you find the most suitable options to meet your unique needs. However, all effective treatment programs take a comprehensive approach to addiction and mental illness.

Comorbid addictions and mental health disorders occur together, so treating them together is essential. Treating mental health issues can help reduce the urge to self-medicate by abusing substances. At the same time, support to overcome addiction can help relieve the symptoms of co-occurring mental health disorders. Ultimately, an integrative approach can help you heal from both addiction and mental illness and break the cycle of your diagnoses interacting with each other.

What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Dual Diagnosis?

Most providers treating people living with a dual diagnosis use integrated interventions. In many rehab centers, clinicians have the tools to treat addiction but don’t have the knowledge or therapeutic services available to treat mental health disorders. Conversely, many mental health clinics don’t have the resources to help people heal from addiction. Integrated interventions bring together both parts of the puzzle by treating mental health disorders and delivering substance abuse interventions in a single treatment program.

Another essential factor in any dual-diagnosis treatment plan is individualized care. Substance abuse and mental health disorders have complex social, biological, and environmental causes. Therefore, what works for one person may not work for another. At Beachway, we treat the whole person by customizing your care plan to suit your circumstances.

Generally, dual-diagnosis treatment programs include one-to-one or group therapy and counseling to help you develop coping strategies and interpersonal skills and address the root causes of your comorbid disorders. Some people also benefit from inpatient treatment to help them manage the physical and psychological impacts of substance withdrawal.

Depending on your condition, your provider may recommend specialized treatments designed to treat specific symptoms or help you develop the skills you need to heal.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

EMDR therapy involves moving your eyes rapidly from side to side while processing traumatic thoughts or memories. When delivered by a qualified specialist, EMDR can help reduce flashbacks and intrusive thoughts and support you in processing negative experiences. Therefore, it’s often used to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a PTSD and substance abuse disorder dual diagnosis.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly how EMDR supports trauma processing. However, there’s significant evidence showing that EMDR is effective for people with trauma-related mental health disorders. For example, a 2014 review discovered that EMDR achieved faster or better results than more traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatments in 70% of studies.

Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapies help people with a dual diagnosis develop healthy habits and find enjoyable, constructive ways to fill their time while recovering from addictions. Your treatment may include sports, animal therapy, outdoor activities, and other pastimes to suit your personal interests and goals.

Participating in recreational therapy can help you heal from substance abuse disorders in various ways. First, it supports you in improving your physical health and recovering from the physical impacts of addiction. It can also help you develop new social connections and learn how to accomplish targets. Enhancing your well-being through recreational therapy may also help you manage certain symptoms of mental health disorders, such as low self-esteem.

Solution-Focused Therapy

Providers often recommend solution-focused therapy to help people with a dual diagnosis create solutions to problems. This type of therapy encourages you to break harmful thought and behavior patterns and develop positive ways to reach your goals.

Solution-focused therapy could be particularly helpful if you use drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms of mental illness. Your therapist can help you explore your problems and generate healthier ways to manage your symptoms.


How Dual-Diagnosis Treatments Work

Knowing what to expect from dual-diagnosis treatment can make it easier to start your journey toward healing. Below, we’ll outline the treatment process from diagnosis to recovery.


An accurate diagnosis is essential for effective dual-diagnosis treatment. For example, people with substance abuse and depression may require different treatment strategies than those with comorbid anxiety. Before starting treatment, your provider will assess your symptoms to determine which co-occurring diagnoses you have and use this information to inform your treatment options.

Bear in mind that dual-diagnosis disorders can occur in either order. Some people develop substance abuse disorders after mental health issues, while others may develop a mental health disorder before addiction. Occasionally, people develop unrelated substance misuse and mental health disorders. However, their conditions will still likely interact with and worsen each other.

Your provider may also assess you for other factors contributing to your condition. For example, certain physical health problems can exacerbate substance abuse and mental health disorders. Social issues such as unemployment or insecure housing arrangements could also impact your conditions. Addressing these factors during treatment may help improve your symptoms and increase the likelihood of recovery.

Treatment Process

Following your assessment, your provider will recommend a treatment plan to manage your substance abuse and mental health disorders. Your team will provide education to help you understand your dual diagnosis and how it affects you. They should also involve you in the decision-making process, encouraging you to participate in setting achievable goals and determining how to reach them.

>Often, you’ll receive care from a multidisciplinary team. While some treatment centers train their staff in both substance abuse and mental health treatment techniques, most employ professionals from a range of disciplines. A multidisciplinary treatment team allows you to benefit from the expertise of both mental health disorder and addiction recovery specialists. Depending on your treatment pathway, your team may include:

  • Physicians
  • Mental health specialists
  • Addiction counselors
  • Support workers

Dual-diagnosis treatment plans usually include specialized therapies to help you reframe negative thoughts, learn effective coping behaviors, and manage the symptoms of your mental health disorder. Depending on your diagnosis, your team may prescribe medications to treat your addiction or the physical and emotional symptoms of mental health problems.

You’ll also receive medical support to allow you to stop abusing drugs safely and manage the physical symptoms of withdrawal. For some people, this means an inpatient stay, while others may receive treatment as outpatients.

Many dual-diagnosis treatment programs include holistic therapies alongside evidence-based addiction and mental health treatments. For example, some people find yoga, massage, and other therapies designed to promote well-being and relaxation helpful during recovery.

Dual-diagnosis treatment doesn’t end when you finish your treatment program. Your provider will deliver aftercare support to reduce the risk of relapse, maintain accountability, and help you manage challenges following treatment. For example, your team may help you develop strategies to avoid situations where you’re more likely to abuse substances by changing your social group or finding new hobbies and activities to fill your time.

Many dual-diagnosis treatment centers also offer services and education for friends and family members to help them support their loved ones and maintain their own physical and mental wellness.

Is Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Effective?

If you’re experiencing comorbid substance abuse and mental health disorders, it’s natural to wonder whether dual-diagnosis treatment is effective. Unfortunately, many rehab and mental health clinics don’t offer dual-diagnosis treatment programs. As of 2015, only 18% of rehab centers and 9% of mental health providers offered dual-diagnosis treatment models.

There’s significant evidence that dual-diagnosis treatments are more effective for people with comorbid addiction and mental health disorders than singular-approach treatments. A 2018 study of integrated dual-diagnosis treatment programs determined that an integrated approach reduces substance misuse following treatment. In other words, you’re more likely to achieve recovery through a program treating both types of disorders than focusing on one.

There are several reasons why dual-diagnosis treatments may be more impactful. First, singular-approach programs don’t necessarily acknowledge the complex interactions between substance abuse and mental health disorders. Failing to treat mental health problems may increase the risk of using drugs as a coping strategy, while ignoring addiction issues may not address the root cause of mental health symptoms. The holistic approach of many dual-diagnosis treatment programs can help you develop the skills and strategies you need to beat addiction and achieve better mental health long term.

Some traditional treatment methods attempt to treat the substance abuse disorder and then the mental health disorder, or vice versa. Dual-diagnosis treatment programs differ because they treat both conditions simultaneously in a single care package instead of one after the other.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Success Rates

Success rates of dual-diagnosis programs depend on the expertise of the team delivering the treatment and your diagnosis. While there aren’t many studies on the topic, the existing research is encouraging. For instance, a study researching treatment approaches in people with alcohol addiction and schizophrenia concluded that over 61% of patients achieved long-term recovery with dual-diagnosis treatment.

Factors Impacting the Effectiveness of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorder Treatments

Whether you receive dual-diagnosis or singular-approach treatment, several factors can affect your chances of successful recovery. Research shows that treatment programs that encourage accountability for your own recovery are more successful.

Commitment to your treatment plan is also essential — the more committed you are to using healthy strategies to manage addiction, the more likely you are to recover. That’s why many dual-diagnosis treatment programs use acceptance and commitment therapy to treat substance abuse disorders.

The length of your treatment program can also impact results. Generally, more extended addiction treatment programs are more likely to help you achieve positive outcomes, such as finding employment. High-quality aftercare can also help prevent relapses and support you in developing and maintaining healthy habits.

Helping Someone You Know With a Dual Diagnosis

Witnessing someone you love struggling with addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder can be distressing. Often, it’s hard to know how to help without sacrificing your own mental and physical well-being. Fortunately, dual-diagnosis treatment centers aren’t just there to support people living with a dual diagnosis; they can also help friends and family navigate treatment and recovery.

Encouraging your loved one to engage in a dual-diagnosis treatment program can help them access the expert support they need to heal. However, you cannot force someone to seek help until they’re ready. Offering support while maintaining healthy boundaries can help you manage during this difficult time. Consider using the following tips while supporting someone with a dual diagnosis.

Remember That Mental Health Disorders and Addiction Are Diseases

While watching someone going through addiction can spark frustration and even anger, it’s important to remember that substance abuse can cause changes in the brain that make the habit hard to kick. The same applies to mental health disorders. Experts believe mental illnesses develop due to changes in how neurons communicate in the brain.You should always protect your own well-being, and this may include limiting contact with the person if their drug use puts you at risk of harm. However, try to avoid shaming statements when discussing their substance abuse or mental health problems. Mental illnesses and addictions are diseases, and feelings of shame can make it harder for the person to ask for support and treatment.

Seek Education

Educating yourself on substance abuse and mental health disorders can help you make sense of your loved one’s symptoms and behavior and how their conditions interact. If your loved one is receiving treatment, ask their treatment center about educational resources and support services for friends and family members. Alternatively, consider joining a support group or contacting a mental health or addiction charity for help.

Get Support

Caring for someone with a dual diagnosis can impact your own well-being. Therefore, it’s important to give yourself an emotional outlet by talking to a trusted person, such as a friend, religious leader, or counselor. Consider seeking support from a therapist if your loved one’s dual diagnosis is affecting your mental health.

Establish Boundaries

It’s natural to want to throw yourself into helping your loved one through mental health struggles and addiction. However, supporting them without limits can be exhausting and lead to burnout or isolation. Establishing boundaries around what you can and can’t do and sticking to them is essential for staying safe and healthy.

Practice Self-Care

Prioritizing enjoyable, relaxing activities can help you manage stress and anxiety while supporting your loved one. Many people find self-help practices, such as mindfulness, yoga, and meditation, useful. Getting enough physical exercise, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a regular sleep routine can also help you cope with the physical and emotional impact of caring for someone through recovery.

Beachway Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Center in Florida

You don’t have to struggle with addiction and comorbid mental health disorders alone. You can access treatment and support at Beachway’s dual-diagnosis treatment center in Florida with programs designed by our expert practitioners. Our team can help you find the most appropriate treatment options to recover from addiction and achieve better physical and mental well-being. If you need more intensive support, our inpatient programs provide the medical and emotional care you need to heal safely.

Your recovery journey starts with an assessment to determine your diagnosis and explore the most effective treatment pathways for your co-occurring disorders. Contact our team today to discuss dual-diagnosis treatment for you or someone you love.