Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness? Dual Diagnosis Explained

dual diagnosis explained

Addiction can be hard to understand.  Beyond understanding the disease, the terminology is always changing.  Is someone an alcoholic, an addict, or both?  Do they have a substance use disorder?  And, how does all of this relate to mental illness? It can be complicated and the best place to start may be in understanding the terminology.  At Laguna View Detox, we help you navigate the terminology, the disease, and any related mental health conditions. 

Addiction Explained

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by an individual repeatedly engaging in the use of a substance despite the risks or the consequences.  While we typically think of drugs when we talk about addiction, individuals may be addicted to behaviors as well.  Drug addiction is also referred to as a substance use disorder. 


Alcoholism Explained

Alcoholism, as defined by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is “a progressive illness which can be cured but which, like some other diseases, can be arrested.”  AA and its members view alcoholism as a combination of spiritual, emotional, and physical illness. 


Mental Illness Explained

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines mental illness as a “diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to cause serious functional impairment in major life activities.” SAMHSA expressly excludes substance use disorders and addiction from its definition of mental illness.  However, the National Institute of Mental Health categorizes addiction as a mental illness. So, is drug addiction a mental illness?  The short answer is it depends who you are asking. The more complex answer is that addiction and mental health disorders are interrelated.  


How Drug Addiction and Mental Illness Are Related

About half of those who are diagnosed with a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder. In many cases, individuals may self-medicate their mental health disorders with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes the mental health disorder has not been diagnosed.  Other times, the individual has not been able to connect with the treatment needed including therapy and medication.  Alternatively, we may find ourselves not liking the side effects of the medications prescribed for a mental health disorder and self-medicate with alcohol or drugs instead. Often mental health disorders such as anxiety can be a factor in the substance use that leads to addiction. Likewise, substance use and addiction can contribute to the development of mental health disorders. Many times, a diagnosis cannot be made until the individual has detoxed from drugs and alcohol. 


Dual Diagnosis Explained

Dual diagnosis is simply a term to explain that an individual who suffers from addiction also has a co-occurring mental health disorder.  Research shows that there is a high percentage of individuals who suffer from addiction and have a mental illness. This may include depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), personality disorders, or bipolar disorders. Trauma, genetics and stress are risk factors for both addiction and mental health disorders. At Laguna View Detox, we have the resources to help you detox safely so that you can move on to identifying and addressing any co-occurring mental health disorders. 


Get Help Today at Laguna View Detox

At Laguna View Detox, you will get round the clock holistic care for your addiction.  We are one of the leading drug rehab centers in California. We provide luxurious, individualized inpatient rehab treatment in one of the most beautiful areas in Southern California. We remain dedicated to helping you detox safely and seeing you succeed by providing you with the care you need while you’re with us and setting you up for success with our aftercare. Contact us today and let us help you with your addiction!