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‘Dual diagnosis’ is a term used to describe the “patients who meet the DSM-IV criteria for both, substance abuse and psychiatric disorder” (Dale 2001, p. 190).. ‘Substance use disorder’ is the psychological disorder which occurs when people become addicted to the substance by abusing it and depending on it The term used for substance use disorder is ‘substance abuse’ (Drake et al. 2003, p.53). ‘Severe mental illness’ is a term used to describe the long term psychiatric disorders which make a person incapable of leading a normal life and handling his mundane responsibilities (Drake et al. 2003, p.53). When substance abuse and severe mental illness co-occurs in a person, then he comes under the medical condition well known as ‘dual diagnosis’ (Drake et al. 2003, p.53). However, it has been found that people falling under the condition of ‘dual diagnosis’ suffer from multiple mental and substance disorders, and not just from two disorders as implied by the term ‘dual’ (Drake et al. 2003, p.54). Hence, the term ‘dual diagnosis’ is quite misleading as it implies only two disorders. Moreover, lack of relevant health care services for ‘dual diagnosis’ patients has created many serious risks for the patients. Risk of poor diagnosis It is difficult to effectively manage the plan and the outcomes of the treatment if the mental disorders in the substance users and the substance use disorder in people suffering from mental disorders, are not recognized at the early stage of the treatment (McArdle 2010, p.94). The symptoms related to substance use and symptoms related to mental health problems are quite similar to each other and hence, it becomes difficult to distinguish between them (McArdle 2010, p.94). Moreover, it is very important to recognize the real cause of the patient’s condition, i.e. to know if the real problem is substance abuse or mental disorder. For example, there is a possibility that an underlying mental health disorder which the patient was unaware of, might have led the patient into substance use problem (McArdle 2010, p.94). At the same time, there is a possibility of the mental health disorder developing due to the negative physical, social and psychological consequences occurring due to the substance use problem (McArdle 2010, p.94). The third possibility is that the substance abuse and the mental disorder can occur in same person without any relation to each other (McArdle 2010, p.94). Hence, to avoid the risk of wasting time in giving wrong treatment, it is very important to do a proper assessment of the case when it comes to dual diagnosis. Otherwise, there is a risk of wastage of time and cost due to wrong treatment of the patient. However, proper assessment is not that easy. It is because patients with substance use problem may use combination of multiple substances and this makes the proper assessment more difficult and complicated (McArdle 2010, p.94). According to Nathan (1991), due to the complication related to assessment, previously, the health care professionals used to prescribe a 4-6 weeks of drug free period for patients, so that the symptoms related to mental disorder can be distinguished easily from the symptoms related to substance use (McArdle 2010, p.94). The right assessment is possible only when the symptoms of mental disorder and substance abuse are distinguished and assessed accurately. If the assessment is done accurately, then ‘dual diagnosis’ helps in sorting out the symptoms of co-occurring disorders and makes the recovery easy and fast. Ignorance by professionals There is a shortage of health care systems where the mental disorder and the substance abuse are treated together (Drake et al. 2003, p.54). This separate system for both disorders confuses the clients as they are unable to make sense of the messages regarding treatment and recovery given separately by mental disorder and substance disorder systems (Drake et al. 200 ...Show more
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Summary

‘Dual diagnosis’ is a term used to describe the “patients who meet the DSM-IV criteria for both, substance abuse and psychiatric disorder” (Dale 2001, p. 190). ‘Substance use disorder’ is the psychological disorder which occurs when people become addicted to the substance by abusing it and depending on it …
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