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Dual Diagnosis and Self-medication

Mental Health issues were once a taboo in past times; many people who suffered from different mental health illnesses shied away from talking about it and just kept it to themselves. It is highly commendable that many people are talking about their mental health in recent times, and it’s no longer really considered taboo anymore. However, in a few places, mental health is still not freely talked about.

In this article, we would be educating you on all you need to know about dual diagnosis, self-medication, its effects on individuals and the society at large, the treatment, and the benefits of treating it. 

What are Dual Diagnosis and Self-Medication?

Before going into these details, it is essential first to define what we mean by dual diagnosis and self-medication. Dual diagnosis is when an individual is dealing with a mental health illness and is also abusing substances.

Dual diagnosis is also referred to as co-morbidity or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse. The dual diagnosis may include the following;

  1. An individual who, as a result of abusing drugs and other substances, develops a mental illness.
  2. As a result of whatever mental illness the individual is dealing with and trying to manage, he abuses drugs and other substances.
  3. An individual with an underlying mental health condition illness gets worse because of the abuse of drugs and substances.

On the other hand, self-medication is the use of drugs, home remedies, herbs, and other self-administered substances without any advice, diagnosis, or prescription from the doctor. Because there is no prescription, most of the drugs used are over-the-counter medicines easily accessible to individuals. The issue with self-medication is that the medications become easily abused, and at the end of the day, a more significant medical problem can come up.

What Are the Issues and Challenges Related to Dual Diagnosis and Self-Medication?

Dual diagnosis and self-medication pose a lot of problems in society today. The issue of mental illness and self-medication, which ends up leading to drug and alcohol abuse, cuts across different age groups of individuals. In most cases, individuals who struggle with mental health conditions try to self-medicate to suppress the symptoms exhibited by the illness by taking medications and alcohol. These substances may initially work and help stop the mental condition symptoms for a short period. However, instead of suppressing the illness in the long run, the continuous use of drugs and alcohol always escalates and makes the mental condition worse.

According to the World Bank, nearly 1 billion people live with a mental health disorder in this present day. They reported that more than 75% of those living with mental health disorders do not get treatment in low-income countries. 

Every year, about 3 million people die due to substance abuse. It was also stated that every 40 seconds, a person dies by suicide, and about 50% of individuals have mental health disorders by the age of 14. The most shocking part of this world bank report is that most countries spend less than 2% of their budget on treating mental health diseases.

According to the United Nations (UN), about 264 million people are affected by depression, which results in suicide being the second leading cause of death in young people within the age group of 15 to 29.

Like mentioned earlier, most of the time, self-medication comes in when individuals are struggling with certain mental illnesses, like depression, and want to get over it quickly. The chance that it would work in suppressing that illness at that instance is very high; however, drugs and alcohol can never wholly heal the mental illness. 

The fact that there is a lot of stigma and discrimination against those dealing with mental health illness makes the whole situation worse. Many who self-medicate do so because of the fear of the shame and stigma they may face if they openly state they have the illness. They would rather take drugs or alcohol or any other substance that would give a temporary and immediate cure than go to the hospital to get checked and get the proper treatment they need.

Another reason why individuals dealing with mental health illnesses self-medicate is because of the peace, tranquility, and calmness they experience at that particular time, more like a lucid interval. The urge to constantly have a feel of that peace would spur them to keep taking the drugs and alcohol, and in the end, they become hooked on them.

Treatments Available for Dual Diagnosis and Self-Medication

The first treatment that would solve more than 50% of the problem, especially self-medicating, is for society to stop the discrimination and stigmatization against those living with mental health illnesses.

Once an individual struggling with mental illness and drug abuse finds the courage to acknowledge that he has a problem, disclose his symptoms, and is ready to let go of this problem, getting help is not an issue. There are a lot of certified medical personnel who are skilled in the treatment of mental health illnesses, who would diagnose the mental health condition, and engage in counseling and therapy. 

Therapy and counseling help build the self-esteem of those struggling with mental illnesses and drug and alcohol abuse; this, in turn, helps boost the confidence and overall mental health of the individual. The person can open up to the counselor, who then walks him through the whole recovery process. Medication is another treatment used by medical personnel. They prescribe drugs that would serve as Suppressants. Generally, the medical personnel draws up an integrated treatment plan for the individual.

Benefits of Getting Treatment for Dual Diagnosis and Self-Medication

Getting treatment for dual diagnosis and self-medication goes a long way in benefitting the individual affected and society. Some of the benefits are;

  1. The individual would get the necessary treatment needed for his mental well-being.
  2. There would be a complete recovery process evaluation and diagnosis of the individual’s mental health.
  3. Through consistent counseling and therapy, the individual would get over his addiction to drugs and alcohol with time. There are usually peer support groups that provide psychological support and encouragement for the individual.
  4. With a clear mind and mental health, the individual can lead an everyday life and is; able to contribute positively to society instead of being a nuisance.