Individuals who carry a “dual diagnosis” have both a mental illness (i.e. schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder) and a co-existing substance abuse problem.
What is Substance Use Disorder?
Establishing an accurate psychiatric diagnosis can be challenging as it is often difficult to distinguish between symptoms of a mental illness and the effects of alcohol or drugs. Because drug use can either mimic psychiatric symptoms or even cause them (i.e. depression, psychosis, severe mood changes) this adds to the difficulty in assessing how much of an individual’s presentation is due to mental illness or drugs. It is not uncommon for individuals with a mental illness to “self-medicate” with drugs in an attempt to control their symptoms or cope with side effects of medication. However, this attempt at coping most often leads to exacerbated psychiatric symptoms in addition to problems associated with substance abuse – legal, health, interpersonal, daily functioning, etc.
Untangling the interaction between mental illness symptoms and the effects of substance abuse and treating both concurrently is an important element of effective treatment
Those who struggle both with a serious mental illness and a substance abuse problem face immense problems. Under the effect of two illnesses, dually diagnosed individuals have great difficulty across most domains of adult living: getting and keeping a job, developing and maintaining healthy social relationships, and attending to daily tasks of healthy self-care, money management, and household management affairs. Further, many mental health services are not equipped to treat both conditions simultaneously, therefore dually diagnosed individuals often go back and forth between receiving psychiatric services or receiving substance abuse services, but often not at the same time.
How BrightQuest Treats Substance Use Disorder
Because mental illness and substance abuse have potential for severe and long-term consequences on emotional, mental and physical health and life functioning, BrightQuest sees it as imperative that treatment incorporates a focus on both of the illnesses concurrently. Using a therapeutic community model, BrightQuest’s program participants have the opportunity to participate in a dynamic system of support that integrates both developing skills to manage a mental illness alongside the development of skills to manage and recover from an additional substance use disorder.
BrightQuest’s therapeutic milieu is founded on the notion of “mutual support” which encourages members to participate not only in their own healing and recovery, but in the healing and recovery of others. Learning from others who have begun to successfully manage their mental and substance abuse illnesses, teaching newer-to-treatment individuals, and doing so with the support of a treatment team experienced in both mental illness and substance abuse treatment creates a rich environment for dually-diagnosed people to build a more functioning and independent life.