Dual Diagnoses

The term refers to people diagnosed with mental health problems, who also use illicit drugs or alcohol. It may, for instance, include someone diagnosed with a psychotic illness who use street drugs, or someone who is depressed and drinking heavily or using stimulant drugs (such as amphetamine or cocaine) in order to feel more socially confident.

Some health professionals disagree about when to apply the term. Some believe that any substance used by people with mental health problems is likely to lead to increased symptoms, and is therefore problematic. Others accept that drinking and drug use is more common amongst people with mental illness than it used to be, and are more flexible about it.

Experts agree that this condition can be difficult to treat because of the two separate illnesses effecting the person.  But with medication and the right support systems in place the person can develop coping techniques, which can help them recover and have a better quality of life.


Tips for the Family

  1. Addiction is a genuine illness.
  2. Try to give support, encouragement and understanding when a loved one is in recovery.
  3. Don’t expect 100% recovery straight away.

The following table shows the various Psychiatric Disorders and the increased risk of Substance Misuse.

Psychiatric Disorder Increased Risk of Misuse
Manic Episode 14.5%
Schizophrenia 10.5%
Panic Disorder 4.3%
Antisocial personality Disorder 15.5%


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