Dual Diagnosis

The term ‘dual diagnosis’ is used when someone has a combination of mental health problems and alcohol or drug problems (‘substance misuse’)

  • The reason why someone may develop these problems together depends on the individual, but in many cases people use drugs or alcohol to ‘self-medicate’ in order to make symptoms of mental illness and side-effects of medication easier to handle
  • Substance misuse occurs when use of alcohol or other drugs has a negative impact on someone’s functioning on a long-term basis
  • It’s important that mental health and substance misuse services work together to make sure people with a dual diagnosis get adequate treatment and support.
  • When someone has substance misuse problems on top of a mental health problem there can be increased risks, such as involvement with the criminal justice system
  • In some circumstances, assertive outreach services should be considered for someone with a dual diagnosis. Assertive outreach services take a more proactive approach to treatment and support in the community.

Dual diagnosis refers to Co-occuring Disorders of Mental Health disorders and Substance Abuse disorders (alcohol and/or drug dependence or abuse).

Dual Diagnosis and Dual/Multiple disorders profiles may include the following:

  • Severe/major mental illness and a substance disorder(s)
  • Substance disorder(s) and a personality disorder(s)
  • Substance disorder(s), personality disorder(s) and substance induced acute symptoms that may require psychiatric care, i.e., hallucinations, depression, and other symptoms resulting from substance abuse or withdrawal.
  • Substance abuse, mental illness, and organic syndromes in various combinations. Organic syndromes may be a result of substance abuse, or independent of substance abuse.

Persons are found across the mental health and substance abuse systems who have various combinations of these dual/multiple disorders.

They are also found outside of these systems of care, often among the homeless, and within the criminal justice system.

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