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Treating Substance Abuse and Mental Illness: A Hand-in-Hand Approach

There are currently about 2 million Americans who are suffering from some form of mental illness. Out of these 2 million, at least half is also abusing alcohol, drugs and other addictive substances. These findings were recorded by the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Despite the undeniable fact that a large majority of metal illness patients are also suffering from chemical dependency, most of the treatment centers that are operating in the country today are unable or not equipped to address the two disorders. This lack of a good dual diagnosis program prevents the patients from getting the help they need or from achieving long-term sobriety. Since May is the month dedicated to Mental Health and Awareness, Brookhaven Retreat founder and owner Jacqueline Dawes is working to educate people and promote dual diagnosis licensing.

The need for double treatment

According to Dawes, the problem that the situation presents is quite simple. In order to successfully treat patients who are suffering from co-occurring disorders (substance abuse and mental illness), the rehabilitation center needs to be able to provide alcohol and drug abuse treatment while also offering mental illness treatment at the same time. In most cases, one condition is dependent on the other and can often act as a shield for one another. For instance, simple cocaine addiction can turn out to be a means of coping with childhood trauma. A program that is addressed to cure the drug addiction will not be enough without addressing the root of the problem, which is the childhood issue.

Changing the policies

Now that it is clear how substance abuse treatment and mental illness treatment should go hand in hand, it has also exposed the fact the policies governing substance abuse treatments are lacking. In most states, there is still a dividing line between mental institutions and substance abuse rehabilitation centers. According to Dawes, authorities need to provide a dual-diagnosis license to providers so that individuals can be guided towards the treatment they really need. Brookhaven Retreat is one such facility that provides dual-diagnosis treatment and enjoys a reputation of having an impressively high success rates, so much so that Columbia University is actually doing a study on the center’s program.

Miramar is one of the rehabilitation centers in the country that are able to offer dual diagnosis treatment. Because of this, the center is able to offer more effective treatment that prevents patients from suffering a relapse.

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