After years of going to weekly Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, Joe discovered that even though he was able to stay sober for long periods of time, there was something triggering his need to go back to drink. For a year, Joe relied only in AA, a self-help type of counseling group, to work with his alcoholism.
Joe was a war veteran now working in construction; his health insurance was not only expensive but did not cover a lot of medical issues, among them, the possibility to see an specialist and be able to get a mental health diagnosis.
If Joe would have been able to have a proper mental health assessment test, he might have discovered that he was not only suffering of alcoholism but he also had a mental condition known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Joe was in fact suffering a Dual Disorder which means he had both, a substance abuse problem as well as a mental disorder.
Joe’s might have all the best intentions in recovering from his alcoholism but without proper help for his PTSD, the chances to go back to drinking after a period of time was an undeniable reality. This occurs because there is a slight chance of knowing what come first, as a mental illness can develop substance abuse, people with substance abuse problems are prone to develop a mental illness.
Did Joe start drinking because of his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Did he already have a mental condition, later on developed into PTSD, which triggered his alcohol consumption?
Joe knows he started drinking heavily after coming back from Iraq but he had been drinking since his early teen years.
Like Joe, lots of people that suffer from a non detected mental disorder use substances to self-medicate themselves. In Joe’s case, he found in alcohol the medicine for his anxiety problem and even if AA meetings helped him stay sober for a while, since his mental condition wasn’t properly treated, he was going back to drinking again after a period of time.
It wasn’t until he was properly diagnosed with PTSD years later and when he started receiving proper treatment for his Dual Disorder (Substance abuse and Mental problem) that he was able to not only stay sober but to actually live a happier and healthier life.
Dual Disorders are not only a reality in our society but an issue that needs to be taken into consideration before any treatment is started. Not everyone with a mental condition has a substance abuse problem and not everyone that uses drugs is mentally ill but is important to take into consideration some last decade interesting facts that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) pointed about Dual Disorder treatment:
“Among adults with dual disorders, 34 percent received mental health treatment only, 2 percent received only specialty substance use treatment and only, 12 percent received both mental health and specialty substance use treatment.
Office of Applied Studies (2004). Adults with co-occurring serious mental illness and a substance use disorder report. Retrieved on April 23rd 2011 from http://www.drugabusestatistics.samhsa.gov/2k4/coOccurring/coOccurring.htm