Integrated Care: The Treatment of Two Disorders Using Dual Diagnosis

Addiction is a Disease

One of the many negative stigmas surrounding addiction is the belief that it is a choice.

While the media tends to sensationalize substance use and presents a warped view of addiction in the real world, research and studies have proven it is a chronic disease marked by changes in the brain that alter a person’s behavior.

Many drugs flood the “reward circuit” in the brain with dopamine, which is the area that controls pleasure and healthy behaviors. This causes the brain to adjust by producing less dopamine or reducing its ability to respond to dopamine, creating a tolerance that often results in further drug use or the use of harder drugs in order to receive the same high.

As a result of these chemical changes, those suffering from addiction will find less pleasure in things they once enjoyed — such as social activities and food — and become dependent on drugs for a pleasurable high.

Contrary to the common misconception that those who are addicted to drugs can quit by exercising willpower and good intentions, recovery typically requires the help of experienced, trained professionals who are capable of recognizing each person’s individual needs and tailoring their treatment accordingly.

While the treatment of addiction as a disease is now widely practiced, it has not always been this way.

In 1956, the American Medical Association first recognized alcoholism as a disease, but it wasn’t until 1987 that addiction received the same recognition. These breakthroughs paved the way for more effective treatment options.

Dual Diagnosis

An important step in the effective treatment of drug addiction was the development of Dual Diagnosis, or the treatment of a person suffering from both addiction and a mental health issue.

While Dual Diagnosis occurs in an array of combinations, it is often categorized by addiction combined with one of the following:

  • Mood disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Eating disorder

Despite that fact that as many as half of those struggling with addiction also have some form of mental illness and vice versa, Dual Diagnosis (sometimes referred to as co-occurring disorders) is a relatively new concept.

Up until the 1990s, addiction was treated separately from mental health disorders, resulting in insufficient treatment in clients who were experiencing both of these disorders simultaneously. In order to receive treatment for their mental health issue, clients were first required to get clean and sober, and as a result, many went without receiving the care their condition required.

Integrated Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

With our new knowledge about addiction and its effect on the brain, we now understand that addiction and mental health are very intertwined; one often results because of the other.

Because of this, a person must be treated with both their addiction and mental health issue in mind, a practice that has slowly gained recognition.

According to, in 2002, the Office of Applied Studies, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reported that only 12 percent of the 4 million American adults who suffered from a Dual Diagnosis received treatment for both conditions. Why? Because Dual Diagnosis isn’t simple to treat.

There is no one right way to treat a person with a Dual Diagnosis. Substance abuse is considered both a cause and an effect of mental illness; either disorder can develop first.

Many of those struggling with mental illness may turn to substances to self-medicate, while addiction can lead to mental health problems due to the effect of drugs and alcohol on the brain.

Because these two disorders are often heavily related, it is important that those who receive a Dual Diagnosis seek integrated care for a successful recovery.

The Alo Approach

At Alo House, we know that the effective treatment of a Dual Diagnosis involves considering both addiction and mental illness as a client goes through the recovery process. To provide the most effective treatment, and full recovery, our services include:

  • Expert parallel treatment of mental health and substance use disorders provided by our Doctorate and Master’s level team of professionals who are proven leaders and pioneers in Behavioral Health and Dual Diagnostic treatment.
  • Specialized care and acknowledgement of treatment protocols integrating the importance of psychotherapeutic medications, such as antidepressant, anti-anxiety and other psychotherapeutic medications related to the treatment of co-occurring disorders.
  • A supportive approach to therapy that reinforces self-esteem and builds self-confidence instead of confrontational styles with negative and aggressive statements.
  • An inclusive treatment strategy that brings family, partners, spouses and other significant relationships, to form an integral part of our treatment approach.

Read more about our Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program.

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We believe trust, meaningful connections, and kindness are the essentials to beginning a journey in recovery. We are dedicated to providing an honest, authentic, and genuine treatment environment that gives our clients a unique opportunity for healing.

Alo House is LegitScript Certified and a Joint Commission Accredited Addiction Treatment Center.