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Dual Diagnosis

Drug and alcohol addiction is never a simple thing. There are enough factors involved and enough ways that it can complicate matters on its own. When other elements are added to the mix, the difficulty increases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, per se, but there is more work and diligence needed during treatment and recovery. In many cases, these additional elements in drug and alcohol addiction result in what is known as dual diagnosis and we at Lionheart Recovery know exactly how to help.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is commonly used when there is an additional condition, usually one tied to mental health, which is occurring at the same time as the addiction itself. It is a case of two separate conditions that just so happen to be occurring simultaneously. In some instances, the mental health condition could have been a contributing factor in the development of the addiction. This can occur when a person tries to self-medicate their condition with drugs or alcohol when traditional treatment does not work. There is also the possibility of a person’s condition not being formally diagnosed, and they may have sought the use of an addictive substance to cope with the symptoms of the condition. As certain prescription drugs can have addictive properties and can be abused, addiction can also develop with the medication used to treat the condition. This can be especially so as tolerance to the medication develops over time and a larger dosage is needed in order for there to be any effect.

How Does This Affect Treatment?

The inclusion of dual diagnosis in addiction treatment means that there is additional work that needs to be done on the path to recovery. As it is a case of two different conditions, both need to be taken into account: two conditions, two treatments. It is likely that you or your loved one will need an additional treatment plan with dual diagnosis, and will likely need to work with an addiction treatment center or program and a mental health treatment center or program. The two treatment plans will also need to be able to collaborate and not negatively impact each other; if the conditions are connected, so should the treatment. At Lionheart Recovery, all of the centers and programs we work with offer true dual diagnosis services, but we’ve partnered with some of the best mental health facilities in addition to addiction treatment providers to ensure that everyone is able to get the help they deserve.

With dual diagnosis, the treatment methods for addiction do not vary from what is available when there isn’t an additional condition involved. Things such as detoxification, therapy, medication, and after care treatments are likely treatment methods that will be applied with addiction in dual diagnosis. They will likely be tailored for dual diagnosis, with additional focus on the specifics of the mental health condition involved and its treatment plan. However, the complexity of the situation will often mean that inpatient care is necessary during the majority of, if not all of, the prescribed treatment process. This may impact the length, intensity, and cost of treatment, in addition to the treatments themselves.

Common Conditions in Dual Diagnosis

While the occurrence of dual diagnosis is possible with all mental health conditions, there are some that are more common than others.


Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the U.S., but it is also a serious one. It’s not just feeling “sad,” as many people misinterpret or misidentify it, but a lack of interest in things, psychological sensations of emptiness and hopelessness, and physical sensations of fatigue, pain, and appetite changes. Those with depression may even have suicidal thoughts and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Addiction may come into play should a person with depression use drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms or in an effort to feel something other than the emptiness that depression can cause.

Bipolar Disorder

A mood disorder where the person shifts between mania—intense “happy” feelings—and depression, bipolar disorder is a common mental health condition that can occur in dual diagnosis. The condition is permanent and often begins when a person is a teenager or young adult, but cases of earlier onset have been found. A person may not be diagnosed with bipolar disorder when it first presents, and they may turn to dangerous substances in an effort to control their symptoms before formal medical care can be administered. Those with bipolar disorder often have moments of poor or reckless decision making when manic, so addictive usage of drugs and alcohol could also begin then.


Everyone has occasional moments where they feel anxious, but there are those who experience anxiety almost constantly and with increasingly worse symptoms over time. Anxiety disorders can include generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and panic disorders. These conditions often interfere with a person’s daily life. Like with depression, the symptoms that manifest are both physical and psychological. A person with anxiety may have psychological feelings of nervousness and fear that are accompanied by chest pains and an increased heart rate, for example. Certain drugs that have a calming effect on the user can be easily abused by a person with an anxiety disorder, even if it was originally prescribed to them, as they often build a tolerance to the substance and need to take more for it to have an effect.


ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition that causes a person to have symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, in addition to difficulties focusing. It is commonly diagnosed in children, but it is a permanent condition, and some can go undiagnosed until they are well into adulthood. Dual diagnosis and ADHD are not uncommon, as the medications used to treat the condition have addictive properties, and abuse of those drugs increases as the person’s tolerance goes up. The impulsivity that accompanies the condition also can lead to addiction or other risky behaviors, as the person’s decision-making abilities and judgment are often impacted.


Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a common condition that develops when a person has experienced a traumatic event. This can include physical trauma—like physical abuse, assault, and serious injuries and accidents—and/or psychological trauma—like witnessing a traumatic or disastrous event or mental abuse. A person’s fight-or-flight instincts are often triggered with PTSD, even if there isn’t any danger at that moment. There is no age restriction with PTSD, as it has been known to occur in young children all the way to the very old. Drug or alcohol use is often used by those with PTSD as a means of self-medicating in an effort to control or halt their emotions or to block out traumatic memories.

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At Lionheart Recovery, we will work with you, hand in hand, to ensure you or your loved one finds the personalized care specific to your needs. This service comes at no cost to you or your family. Our addiction specialists are ready to help you begin your journey to achieving long-term, sustainable sobriety. Let’s find a solution, together.
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