Skip to main content

Just The Facts: Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously. Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first. A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to improve the troubling mental health symptoms they experience. Abusing substances can also lead to mental health problems because of the effects drugs have on a person’s moods, thoughts, brain chemistry, and behavior.


The defining characteristic of dual diagnosis is that both a mental health and substance abuse disorder occur simultaneously. Because there are many combinations of disorders that can occur, the symptoms of dual diagnosis vary widely. The symptoms of substance abuse may include:

  • Using substances under dangerous conditions.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors when drunk or high.
  • Doing things you wouldn’t normally do to maintain your habit.
  • Developing tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Feeling like you need the drug to be able to function.

How is a dual diagnosis treated?

The most common method of treatment for dual diagnosis today is integrated interventions, where a person receives care for both a specific mental illness and substance abuse.

  • Detoxification
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation
  • Intensive Outpatient
  • Traditional Outpatient
  • Medications
  • Psychotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Medical Services
  • Self-help and Support Groups: Double Trouble in Recovery is a 12-step fellowship for people managing both a mental illness and substance abuse, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are 12-step groups for people recovering from alcohol or drug addiction, Smart Recovery is a sobriety support group program for people with a variety of addictions.

See more at NAMI Website

Contact Us

Reach out and connect with Jefferson Center today. 

    Getting Started
    Jefferson Center provides client-centered services designed to meet your individual mental health, substance use, and wellness needs. We’re dedicated to meeting you where you are in your journey and working together to help you live a satisfying and hopeful life.

    Emergency & Crisis Services
    • Hotline
    • Walk-in crisis centers
    • Mobile crisis services throughout the state