25 April 2016

Dual Diagnosis Specialist Should Be Part of Every Rehab Programme

Street pastor and activist Del Thomas has been busily working the streets of Southend collecting signatures on a petition calling for the hiring of a dual diagnosis specialist within the local council. Thomas had collected some 800 signatures by the end of March (2016); he hopes to collect another 700 by the time local elections roll around in May. He says that hiring a dual diagnosis specialist is a ‘no-brainer’ in light of the higher-than-average rate of mental illness in Southend as opposed to the rest of Essex.Thomas’ fight is an admirable one that needs to be taken up all across England. Whether employed by councils or private drug rehab facilities, dual diagnosis specialists should be part of every rehab programme in the country. Why? Because dual diagnosis scenarios are a growing problem for both rehab and mental health facilities. If we do not do more to address the situation, that percentage of the population needing specialised help will not be properly treated.

An Explanation of Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a less formal way to express the existence of co-occurring conditions within the drug addiction and mental health arena. Examples of co-occurring conditions would include things such as alcoholism and depression or amphetamine addiction and anxiety.

A person diagnosed as dual diagnosis is suffering from a drug addiction and a mental illness simultaneously. The existence of both conditions in the same patient makes treatment of both more complicated for a number of reasons. For example, consider the following questions:

Did one condition cause the other, or have both occurred independently?

  • If causation cannot be determined, is it possible to treat both simultaneously?
  • Can both be treated simultaneously without any negative impacts on mental health?
  • What are the risks of giving one condition priority over the other?

These four questions are just the start of many more that doctors and therapists have to consider when treating dual diagnosis patients. It should be obvious to even non-professionals how important it is for dual diagnosis patients to receive treatment from specialists who possess both the skill and experience to do things right.

A Specialist Can Mean the Difference

It is more than understandable that Southend Council has to carefully consider the cost of hiring a dual diagnosis specialist before any decision is made. Other councils have to face the same fiscal realities. However, equal consideration must also be given to the reality that a specialist can mean the difference between successful treatment and failure.

Treating dual diagnosis scenarios using a skilled and experienced specialist is no different than utilising the services of a cardiology specialist to treat a serious heart condition. We do not, as a matter of course, expect a GP to perform open-heart surgery on a patient needing a new valve. So why would we expect a GP to provide adequate treatment for the dual diagnosis patient suffering from drug addiction and mental illness?

The dual diagnosis specialist carries his or her title thanks to having extra training and real-world experience that other doctors and therapists do not possess. The specialist is in the best position to determine how to treat patients in a way that effectively deals with both conditions without causing any additional harm. We agree with Mr Thomas’ premise that leaving the care and treatment of dual diagnosis patients to specialists is a no-brainer.

Dual Diagnosis and Private Rehab

Whether Southend eventually ends up with a dual diagnosis specialist remains to be seen. We hope they do. But even if not, patients and their families are more likely to find the dual diagnosis support they need at private rehab clinics than NHS facilities.

Private rehab clinics tend to have more specialised and concentrated care because substance abuse and addiction problems are all they deal with. They do not have to worry about patients dealing with everything from sports injuries to the common cold, so they are able to concentrate all of their resources on the kinds of care that their patients need. This makes it possible for many private rehab clinics to keep a dual diagnosis specialist on staff.

That being said, those in need of drug rehab should understand that dual diagnosis care is not something every private clinic offers. It may be that among the small number of private clinics in your general area there are none with a dual diagnosis specialist on hand. A patient may have to be admitted to another facility some distance away in order to get treatment.

Reach out for Help

Del Thomas has demonstrated his concern for those suffering from drug abuse and mental illness in his efforts to present an overwhelming number of signatures to Southend Council. There are others currently working in the alcohol and drug addiction recovery community equally concerned. Anyone struggling with addiction or mental illness can reach out for help and find it. We urge you to do just that if you or someone you care about has a problem.

Dual diagnosis scenarios can be treated successfully. If patients and their families are willing to reach out, there are caregivers at the ready to provide the physical and mental treatments needed to get well.

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