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What is Dual Diagnosis

What is really meant by ‘dual diagnosis and how this is associated with drug addiction or alcohol abuse and what the pharmaceuticals and medicos are not saying, is probably of interest to any family member dealing with a loved one and their struggle with drug addiction or alcohol abuse.

As with many youths and young adults going out dancing, listening to loud concerts or seeing a movie with friends or just getting together to watch a sporting event these are usually accompanied by alcohol or some illicit drug like marijuana, cocaine or crack and other such drugs. In many cases, the alcohol use over time will cause a depressed condition just as drugs taken over time will also have side effects of depression, anxiety and even light or heavy spells of psychosis.

When drugs are taken sporadically, such as only on weekends the euphoria achieved is short-lived and the burnt up nutrients in the body are not replenished sufficiently, resulting in a depressed feeling, due to burnt up vitamin B, C, A and D, E, etc. not to mention the minerals and proteins. This is the same with alcohol. Added to this is the fact that drugs and alcohol really mess up one’s mind. The mind is the thinking machine of each human being and taking drugs or alcohol is like throwing sand in a gearbox. Eventually, something will break.

One day you wake up and you’re not feeling as perky, not as quick-witted; sort of heavy and distracted. You brush it off and blame the cloudy day. At the end of the workday, the heavy feeling is still there and weighs a bit more, you think maybe it’s a cold or just overworked. You decide to take a Sudafed before bed and get a good night’s sleep. The next day you wake up and though it is sunny out you’re not smiling. You feel something is not right but can’t quite put your finger on it. Weeks go by and still you cannot seem to get that happy “life is great” feeling. So you make an appointment to see your doctor or some local health care provider clinic. You tell him you’re not happy, you feel down or lacking energy. The one thing you don’t tell him is you also do drugs and alcohol every weekend.

The doctor or treating physician prescribes an “anti-depression” for your symptoms. But when your drug or alcohol use becomes out of control and you seek help the consulting addictions counsellor doing your assessment finds out you are on “anti-depressants” and doing drugs or alcohol. Now you have a new label, dual diagnosis, you’re an addict and suffer depression. This type of situation is happening every day across Canada in almost every city. A simple, and all too common example; the wife has a child, husband and wife are happy, husband wants affection, wife not “in the mood”, the husband is unfaithful and now guilty, arguments begin, the family unit is deteriorating. The husband begins to drink more, wife is upset she sees her doctor he prescribes medication. Husband loses vigour and is unhappy, he seeks advice from his doctor and is prescribed his dose of anti-depressants. He still drinks and all goes downhill from there.

People face life problems every day, some are tragic others are physical pain, or emotional upsets, the loss of a job, the betrayal of trust, the lying for fear of telling the truth; all are daily affairs. Lacking real-life skills to overcome such issues people seek the “quick fix”. Drugs, including medication and alcohol, are temporary fixes when the substance wears off the problem or pain returns. More drugs are taken and at higher doses to get the same relief. This is the cycle of addiction. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction; deal with the substance abuse and in the majority of cases there is no more dual diagnosis, but simply a person who can now face life head-on and deal with it without artificial means. If you have been labelled “dual-diagnosis” then call for help, especially if it relates to drug or alcohol abuse.


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