How to Know if a Dual-Diagnosis Program is for You

Real life is complicated. Our minds, our bodies, our feelings, even our experiences – on paper, it seems things should be so clear-cut. We think this, we want that, we feel X, Y, or Z…

In reality, of course, it’s rarely that simple. Feelings crash into thoughts which disrupt our plans which then change our feelings – we are complicated creatures, it seems.

Diagnostic Challenges

The same is true when it comes to diagnosing disruptions to living our best life. Mental health issues and behavioral disorders are very real, and often very damaging, conditions. We don’t choose them, and they don’t always each stay in their box. They interact and complicate one another without asking our permission.

Substance abuse is a harsh disruptor as well. Sometimes it’s just one thing, but it’s not unusual for substance use disorder (SUD) to take a variety of forms for the same individual. Like I said, real life is complicated.

People wrestling with mental health issues or behavioral disorders are more likely than the general population to seek relief or solace through the misuse of alcohol or drugs, whether they come from pharmacies or neighborhood dealers. That’s certainly not a good thing, but it makes sense – things feel messed up and out of control. We don’t always know what to do or how to feel, and the false promise of whatever substance is available can prove overwhelming. And sometimes, mental health issues just plain make it harder to make our best choices.

Conversely, individuals struggling with substance abuse are more likely than the general population to have mental health issues or behavioral disorders. The disruptions of addiction can lay the groundwork for latent issues to manifest themselves unexpectedly, or otherwise trigger thoughts and behaviors which otherwise might have remained dormant.

The cause-and-effect of it all isn’t always clear, but the correlations are undeniable. And if you’re the individual, your chances of sorting it all out by yourself are statistically slim. You need someone with training and experience in just this sort of difficulty.

Dual Diagnosis Experts

The good news is, you’re not alone. You’re not even some rare exception to how struggle is supposed to work. There’s a name for what you’re experiencing: “co-occurring disorders,” sometimes referred to simply as “dual-diagnosis.”

Either term simply means you’re dealing with a combination of substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health or behavioral issues. It’s unlikely you’ll find your way out on your own, but there is a way through this to a better version of you. And we can help you get there.

Dual-diagnosis situations require experts with both the training and experience to recognize and understand the many factors at play in the same individual. The symptoms for many types of substance abuse and many varieties of mental health or related issues overlap and impact one another in innumerable ways.

How Do I Know If I Need Help?

That’s a great question, although there’s not a single, simple answer. In general, however, there are common warning signs that should at least prompt a phone call or setting up an appointment:

  • You no longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy (and maybe you don’t enjoy much of anything).
  • Your mood or overall attitude has changed dramatically without obvious external reasons.
  • Anger, depression, defensiveness, paranoia, or any other intense emotions or perceptions “take over” from time to time
  • It’s hard to think clearly or to focus for extended periods of time.
  • You’re no longer motivated to take care of yourself or your surroundings.
  • You used to “self-medicate” to deal with stress or extreme situations; now you do it just to feel “normal.”
  • Friends or family members have started asking you a lot of questions about what’s going on with you or commenting that you don’t “seem like yourself.”
  • You have strong thoughts, feelings, or urges, which are destructive or dangerous or which drive you to do things that don’t make sense
  • Performance at work or school drops off suddenly, or you find yourself having trouble with things that used to be easy – keeping up with the bills, buying the right groceries, etc.
  • You’ve become impulsive or unpredictable.
  • You find yourself thinking about suicide or self-harm or talking about suicide even without intending to.
  • You have a family history of mental illness or substance abuse.
  • Friends, family, or co-workers urge you to get professional help, even if you don’t think you need it or don’t understand why.

When In Doubt…

If any of these describe you, or if you’re still not sure, don’t wait. Reach out. Let us help you figure out the best way forward to confront mental health challenges as well as providing effective addiction treatment. No matter what you’ve done or how you feel, you are not alone.

Preventing Overdosing on Pills

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each day about 130 individuals in the U.S. suffer an opioid overdose death, including prescription pain medications and heroin. Overdosing on pills has been an ongoing problem for decades, especially after the introduction of drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin. Initially, the dangers associated with these opioids were not clearly understood, which only became crystalized in the past decade. Overdosing on pills or illicit drugs like heroin or fentanyl has doubled since 2010, with more than 72,000 deaths in 2017 alone.

While overdose deaths may result from the recreational misuse of opioids, a certain percentage of victims are overdosing on pills due to the powerfully addictive nature of the drugs, or by not heeding the warnings stated on the labels, especially regarding alcohol use. Combining alcohol and pills is an often lethal combination. When discussing how to prevent overdosing on pills, including opioids, benzodiazepines, or any prescription pills, understanding how alcohol impacts the effects of the drug is key.

How to Prevent Overdose

Accidental overdose kills thousands of people every year. In most cases, these fatal events can be avoided by following precautions. Some of the ways to prevent drug overdose include:

  • Read medication labels carefully and heed them. This means to only take the drugs as prescribed and to not take with other drugs unless the doctor has prescribed certain safe combinations. Keep the packaging for future reference to the drug precautions.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol while using prescription drugs
  • If you have a history of overdose or addiction, inform your doctor
  • Take any unneeded drugs to the pharmacy for safe disposal. Do not stockpile
  • Inform the doctor if you suffer from depression or anxiety
  • Keep all prescription and over-the-counter drugs out of the reach of children

What Are the Signs of a Drug Overdose?

Prior to actual overdose there will be signs that someone has taken too many pills. The symptoms of excessive dosing include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Nodding off, in and out of consciousness
  • Scratching due to itchy sensation
  • Muscles are slack
  • Speech is slurred

Opiate (OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco, Demerol) and benzodiazepine (Valium, Ativan, Xanax) overdose symptoms include:

  • Shallow breathing or no breathing
  • Unresponsive
  • Severe disorientation if conscious
  • Snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Vomiting
  • Pulse is slow and erratic
  • Skin is pale and clammy
  • Blue finger tips or lips

What To Do in the Event of a Drug Overdose

If you suspect someone has overdosed on pills, it is imperative to take quick action. This constitutes a medical emergency so do not panic. Instead, take the following action:

  • If the individual is not conscious and breathing is shallow or not present, the first thing to do is to firmly rub your knuckles over the sternum (chest bone) and shout their name. If they do not respond, immediately call 911.
  • While awaiting the first responders, employ CPR (rescue breathing) on the person. This entails tilting the head of the individual back, lifting the chin, and pinching the nostrils. With your mouth over theirs, give two quick breaths and one long breath. Repeat every five seconds.
  • When first responders arrive they will likely administer Naloxone to resuscitate the individual.

What is Naloxone?

The opioid reversal drug, naloxone (brand names Narcan and Evzio) has been instrumental in saving hundreds of lives. Police officers, paramedics, and fire fighters are increasingly trained and equipped with naloxone injectables or nasal sprays for a rapid reversal of respiratory failure. Naloxone is a safe and well-tolerated drug that may induce nausea, vomiting, sweating, or tremors. Compared to the alternative, certain death, these adverse effects are inconsequential.

Getting Treatment for Drug Addiction

Opioids and benzos can quickly lead to addiction. This is a problem that many individuals, who simply took the drugs as directed, have realized when attempting to discontinue using them. Due to highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, the hallmark sign of addiction or chemical dependency, the individual may choose to continue using the medication to avoid the painful experience of getting off the drug.

The best way to avoid accidental overdose is to seek treatment for addiction once it becomes evident that a problem has developed. The sooner one reaches out to get help the faster and easier it is to overcome an addiction to opioids or benzodiazepines.

DETOX

Initially, the individual will need to undergo the detox process, during which a drug-tapering schedule will help ease the individual off the drug safely. As withdrawal symptoms arise, the trained detox staff will intervene with various medications to ease pain and discomfort. Detox can take 7-14 days depending on the length of time using the medication and the usual dosing levels.

TREATMENT

After detox is completed, the client will begin to address the various behaviors and underlying psychological issues associated with the drug use and addiction. They may have acquired certain thought patterns that have resulted in reflexive drug use behaviors, such as “I can’t handle this stress,” “I won’t be able to handle the pain,” or “I cannot sleep without the drug.” Through cognitive behavioral therapy, this negative self-messaging is shifted towards positive and constructive self-messaging. In psychotherapy, the client will examine any unresolved emotional issues that may be contributing to the drug use. The therapist will guide the individual toward expressing emotions about the issue and toward healing.

Other aspects of treatment for drug addiction include learning how to cope better with stress or difficult emotions, how to communicate more productively, how to resolve conflicts better, and how to avoid relapse back to drug use.

Quest 2 Recovery Offers Comprehensive Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles

Quest 2 Recovery is a leader in the field of addiction recovery. Getting the individual into treatment is only the first step on a recovery continuum that will include medical detox, addiction treatment for making fundamental changes in behaviors, learning recovery skills to reinforce sobriety, and aftercare services such as outpatient rehab and sober living housing. For more information about our program, please connect with Quest 2 Recovery today at (888) 453-9396.

Parents Seeking Help: What To Say to an Alcoholic Son or Daughter

In the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous the addict admits a sense of powerlessness over alcohol and acknowledges that life has become unmanageable. Honestly, this step can be just as pertinent to the parents of the alcoholic, as those words ring profoundly true for them, too. Nothing is so disheartening than to find oneself the parent of an alcoholic young adult. After painstakingly raising your child, doing the very best parenting job you could muster, you now witness your grown child’s life going up in smoke as it becomes clear that he or she has an alcohol problem.

At this juncture the knee jerk response is often one born of frustration and anger. Parents simply cannot understand why their child has chosen to drink so excessively that consecutive negative consequences are quickly piling up. Parents find themselves feeling exasperated and lost, not knowing how to help their son or daughter right the ship. Learning what to say to an alcoholic son or daughter that will result in positive action, versus rejection or denial, is key to them taking the first important steps toward recovery.

Helping Versus Enabling

As a parent, it is natural to want to help mitigate the fallout from a child’s alcoholism. Parents only want the best for their son or daughter, and may instinctively make grandiose efforts to rescue their grown child from the consequences of the disease. These reflexive actions are fueled out of fear—Will he have any food to eat?; Where will he live if he loses his apartment?; What if he doesn’t pay that ticket he got?; How will he keep the lights on?—fear that their child may suffer. The conundrum for parents is that they must allow the alcoholic to fall down and experience the consequences of their disease and allow them to own their recovery. Through suffering they may be more inclined to get the help they need, versus parents constantly bailing them out and providing a soft landing.

Enabling behaviors involve the steps that parents take to do the things that their son or daughter should be, and can be, doing for themselves. Enabling behaviors might include:

  • Giving your son or daughter money. While it is tempting to offer them some cash for food or to help pay rent or utility bills, in reality that cash will often be used to buy alcohol instead. Or, just having the parents taking care of the essentials allows the alcoholic to not feel the need to work or be productive and fuels the addiction.
  • Covering for them. A parent may contact their child’s employer or professor to make excuses for an absence. By trying to cover up the alcoholic’s behaviors, the parent is only teaching their child how to manipulate them in the future, and also deters them from being accountable for their actions.
  • Taking over for their responsibilities. Parents may feel tempted to step in and help when there are young children involved when the alcoholic is neglecting their parental responsibilities. This can be true for other neglected responsibilities, such as cleaning their apartment, handling their finances, or arranging for appointments.

Become Educated About the Disease of Alcoholism

Before approaching your son or daughter about their drinking, it is helpful to become informed first. Alcoholism is a complex, chronic disease. It is wise to have a basic understanding of the signs of addiction and the trajectory that the disease takes. The alcoholic does not want you to be informed, as they can manipulate uninformed parents much more easily.

Also, prior to addressing the alcoholism, do some research about detox and treatment options so you will be prepared when/if your son or daughter agrees to get help. This will save a lot of time and allow the parent to be able to move quickly toward securing treatment for their child in a timely manner, giving the son or daughter less time to change their mind.

What to Say to an Alcoholic Son or Daughter

When wondering what to say to an alcoholic son or daughter, it is important to use certain tactics when approaching them. These include:

  • Alcoholics of all ages will recoil if the approach is forceful and anger-driven. It is much more effective to approach them with compassion and understanding. They hate that they are alcoholic. They feel ashamed, guilty, and weak due to this disease.
  • Have evidence of their alcoholism ready to present to them, as alcoholics love to deny and lie about their disease. Have a few concrete examples of how the son or daughter is exhibiting the telltale signs of alcoholism, and that they need to get some help for it.
  • Offer constructive ideas. To just accuse the son or daughter of being an alcoholic is ineffective. Gently reveal the things that you understand, from your research, are indicative of alcoholism, and then offer them solutions. This means specific treatment options to consider, types of rehabs, what to do about detox, and how to plan for treatment.
  • Consider an intervention. If the parent is not confident in their abilities to approach their child about the alcoholism, a professional intervention is a good option. These interventionists are trained to smoothly manage the group meeting where family members and/or close friends convey to the alcoholic how his or her disease has negatively impacted their life, and then guide the person towards treatment.

Preparing for Recovery

In the best-case scenario, the loved one will agree to enter treatment for the alcohol use disorder. This acquiescence may be due to the obvious deterioration of the young adult’s life that is attributed directly to the alcohol abuse. Maybe they have hit their bottom and sincerely desire to change their life. Whatever the reason, the fact that a son or daughter has agreed to get professional help is reason to celebrate.

Prior to the beginning of treatment it is helpful to begin preparing them for the recovery process. This may mean researching different rehab programs together before deciding which is the most appropriate level of care. If the adult child is employed, suggest that they get a medical leave of absence from the employer. They will need to also inquire about their insurance benefits so they can be aware of the out-of-pocket costs of treatment.

Medical Detox Process

The first important step in recovery involves the process through which the body will expel all toxins and chemicals related to the alcoholism. Alcohol detox and withdrawal is a challenging aspect of early recovery, one that often deters many from even entering treatment. However, the benefit of a medically monitored detox program is that a trained team of detox specialists will attend to their needs throughout the process.

During a medical detox, the body struggles to regain equilibrium without the usual alcohol consumption. Brain pathways have adapted to the alcohol, so when it is withheld it causes intense physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol detox can be perilous, which is why a medical team is always important. These experts will consistently monitor vital signs and withdrawal symptoms, allowing them to offer medical interventions as needed to help minimize health risks and the symptoms themselves. The detox specialists, who help keep the individual focused on the end game—recovery, also provide important psychological support.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment

After detox and withdrawal, the individual will transition to active recovery treatment. This can be obtained in either an outpatient or residential treatment setting, which is largely determined by the severity of the alcoholism. The outpatient option allows for the individual to remain living at home while participating in outpatient therapy for anywhere from 9-25 hours per week. A residential setting provides housing and involves a 24-hour support during an extended stay. The residential option offers the higher level of care, with a more intensive daily saturation of therapeutic activities.

Treatment elements for alcohol addiction recovery include:

  • Psychotherapy. Getting to the root of the addiction behaviors and transforming them is key to overcoming alcoholism. This is accomplished through individual psychotherapy sessions using evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and short-term psychodynamic therapy.
  • Group therapy. Individuals in recovery tend to enjoy hearing from peers during group therapy. These sessions allow participants to share personal experiences and offer mutual support.
  • Family therapy. Family members are encouraged to participate in the recovery process by engaging in family-focused group therapy sessions.
  • Medication. Some individuals in alcoholism recovery benefit from medication assisted treatment (MAT) through the use of naltrexone. In some cases, a co-occurring mental health diagnosis may necessitate medication as well.
  • 12-step meetings. Many rehabs will integrate A.A.’s 12-step programming into the treatment plan, involving 12-step meetings (or similar type recovery community) and guest speakers.
  • Complimentary activities. Various activities will enhance the recovery process, such as participating in holistic therapies like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or art therapy, and recreational activities. Nutritional counseling also falls under this category.

Quest 2 Recovery is a Residential Alcohol Treatment Program in Los Angeles

Quest 2 Recovery understands the needs, both emotional and physical, of someone recovering from alcoholism. The compassionate staff at Quest 2 Recovery considers themselves partners with the client, walking the journey toward renewal and healing right along with them. The intimate and family-like treatment setting provides a sense of warmth and comfort to clients at a difficult time in their lives.

At Quest 2 Recovery, our program is base on proven therapies that work in tandem to help clients make important behavioral changes that will support long-term sobriety. As part of the therapeutic process, our therapists also help clients explore any underlying emotional issues that may be factors in the addictive reflex to drink. If you are wondering what to say to an alcoholic son or daughter to get them into treatment, contact our admissions desk for guidance and support. Contact Quest 2 Recovery today at (888) 453-9396.