What is Dual Recovery?

The Connection Between Substance Abuse & Mental Illness

Too often, substance abuse and mental illness are considered separate issues. In reality, about 16% of patients seeking help for addiction are also diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder. This is called a dual diagnosis.

Substance abuse commonly worsens the symptoms of mental illness, and those diagnosed with a mental health condition often turn to substance abuse as a form of self-medication.

Who is Impacted?

More men than women are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders.

In 2017, about 345,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 reported a dual diagnosis in the past year. That’s 1.4% of all U.S. adolescents.

In  2017, about 8.5 million adults reported a dual diagnosis. That’s 3.4% of all U.S. adults.

Percentage with substance use disorder in 2017

  • 18 or older 18.3% 18.3%
  • 18 to 25 26.8% 26.8%
  • 26 to 49 19.6% 19.6%
  • 50 or older 11.5% 11.5%

Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

Before confirming a dual diagnosis, it’s important to understand substance abuse disorders and mental health conditions separately. There are numerous ways in which each issue may impact the other.

Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder Include:

  • Feeling like you need the drug in order to function
  • Developing a high tolerance for the drug
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Engaging in uncharacteristic, risky behavior while under the influence of the drug
  • Failed attempts to stop using the drug


Symptoms of a Mental Health Condition Include:

  • Extreme changes in mood
  • Erratic, confused thinking and behavior
  • Inability or desire to interact with others
  • Significant changes in sleep and eating patterns
  • Disorganized speech


Risk Factors

Family history can make individuals more susceptible to substance use and mental health disorders.


Brain Development
Abusing drugs and alcohol during adolescence can increase the likelihood of a mental health disorder during adulthood.


Traumatic events such as abuse or losing a parent can lead to debilitating addiction.

Treatment Options

It is estimated that of the adults living with co-occurring disorders:

  • Receive mental health treatment 34% 34%
  • Enroll in drug rehab 2% 2%
  • Get the help they need for both disorders 12% 12%

Of almost 3 million adults employed and living with a dual diagnosis in 2017:

  • Received any treatment intervention at all for either disorder 40% 40%
  • Received treatment for both issues 5% 5%

The most effective way to treat dual diagnosis patients is with a holistic program that treats all aspects of both illnesses in a single location.

Treatment of dual diagnosis is known as dual recovery. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years, and focuses on:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Mania
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Trauma
  • Impulse Control
  • Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Anxiety or Panic Disorders

At Viewpoint Dual Recovery Center, we believe the only way to achieve long-lasting change is to treat mental health disorders and addictions simultaneously.