Dual Diagnosis – Effectively Treating the Whole Person

Dual Diagnosis is not a new concept. The cases where substance abuse and mental health conditions coexist it is actually very common. In fact the publication Psychiatric Services Vol. 52 No.4 says that about 50% of those with severe mental health problems have substance abuse problems (Drake, 2001). Just because these instances are common, doesn’t mean that treatment is simple. Dual Diagnosis treatment is especially complex and requires a high skilled team with the correct training and experience. There are many young adults that enter into the treatment programs at New Roads Behavioral Health that have tried other programs and failed. Some people have been seeking help to improve mental health or addiction and have not been able to find solutions that are long lasting. At New Roads, we’ve found evidence based programs that make the hard work done in rehabilitation last after treatment concludes.

Understanding Addiction

Many teenagers that suffer from untreated mental health problems begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol or engage in risky behavior. But this isn’t the only demographic at risk of addiction. Retired veterans that have experienced trauma may also abuse substances. Many who suffer from chronic pain also fall into dependance and addiction.

“If someone showed them a needle loaded with heroin, they’re not going to use that. But if someone says ‘hey this is safe’, ‘it’s prescribed by a doctor’, ‘it’s from my dad’s knee surgery’, or whatever, people don’t have the same stigma associated with that pill. [We’re] kind of a pill culture. So people will use that. Once they are exposed and they have a high genetic predisposition to using and/or if they also have some psycho-social things going on at the time; learning disabilities, stress, ADHD, they just lost their football scholarship because they got hurt, then their likelihood of having an addiction is much higher… The other piece because we’re working with young adults, and we specifically decided to do treatment for young adults, is a lack of life skills, and then a lot of family confusion about what they should do during the treatment episode.”  Eric Schmidt, CEO and Founder of New Roads Behavioral Health

When those that are abusing substances find that it treats the symptoms of their underlying mental health problems, they seek these substances more and more to help self medicate. Addicts are afflicted with the need to keep medicating themselves and lose the support of those around them which isolates them from a healthy support system. Therapy can help add in the support system and show them ways to safely medicate and treat issues with guidance. They learn life skills. Once the whole solution is found, they can have full lives outside of treatment.

Our team is constantly researching, studying and finding new ways to treat our clients with the most care and results based treatments that we can find. That is why we offer Dual Diagnosis. Dual Diagnosis is the term that we use to help us identify mental health conditions in tandem with addiction or substance abuse problems. Often the mental health of the patients is neglected while treating addiction or substance abuse. The relationship between the two is very complex and varies from person to person. Generally, treatment programs ignore the person and try to treat the “problem”. What many don’t understand is that the person suffering from outward problems also brings a great deal of the harm inward. The whole person needs to be treated.

The Environment

What is happening around you is bound to affect you in some way. The environment that surrounds you is not only the physical location but the ideas that are surrounding you. With severe disorders and substance abuse, finding a way out of a toxic environment can be the hardest step in the process to sobriety and healing. In order for change to happen, a commitment to a new life must exist. Residential treatment is the best way to rehabilitate if the environment is contributing to either the mental state or substances that are being abused. New living arrangements often offer clarity of mind and a new perspective. Slowly changing habits and behaviors in a new environment is safe. External forces such as smells, familiar places, and sounds can trigger memories for people that have experienced trauma or severe mental breaks. Residential treatment provides a barrier for clients to develop skills to know how to deal with these kinds of challenges without the fear of environmental triggers.

We’ve found a great deal of success in approaching substance abuse and addiction as a companion to mental health care and find that personality disorders and behavioral problems are also present. Residential programs are often helpful to help surround clients in what we call and “assertive community model”. With the right community model and a culture for recovery and healing, clients can thrive as they discover more about themselves and how to have an active, independent life after recovery.  We also offer counseling for families and those who support people in treatment so that they can understand the changes taking place and learn skills to help their loved ones once they advance and become more independent.

Why Dual Diagnosis Works

Dual Diagnosis is proven to be a very effective evidence based treatment for those suffering with substance abuse problems when done correctly. By providing an assertive community model and long term care, dual diagnosis can work. The community model plays a very vital role in recovery.

While many programs offer steps to recovery and specifically outlined programs, the process of Dual Diagnosis recognises that each client has a unique blend of mental and emotional challenges that they must overcome to form healthy habits.

By moving at the pace of an individual based on their unique history, clients have a higher chance of success. When entering a program that does not utilize dual diagnosis, many problems go unsolved and unrecognized. When clearly identified, working with mental health can actually prove to solve more problems for those affected by substance abuse problems instead of being ignored or pushed aside.

Every single individual can find success in recovery. We have a great staff and a number of different mental health resources and mental health care providers. We invest a great deal of money and time into training our team. We have a culture by design, which means we pay special attention to how we operate and the level of quality education and training we receive.  Results are what drive our programs and with tools like Dual Diagnosis, we have an appropriate model for success and complete recovery.


Drake, Robert E., et al (April 2001). Implementing Dual Diagnosis Services For Clients With Severe Mental Illness. Psychiatric Services Vol. 52 No. 4. Retrieved from: