A dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder, is not so much a level of care, but a component of care that is important to address when choosing a treatment program. Dual diagnosis is the term used when someone with a substance abuse issue has an underlying mental health disorder. An individual with a dual diagnosis is more complex, and needs a more highly specialized form of treatment.
It is very important to find a program that has the resources to offer this level of care. Underlying mental health conditions very often drive the addictive behavior. By treating these complex conditions, very often a person can be successful in their recovery.
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We have a responsibility as family members, friends, employers, colleagues, physicians, educators, religious leaders and neighbors—to reach out to help those suffering with this disease and lead them back to substance abuse-free lives. The earlier we reach them, the greater our likelihood of success.