Dual Diagnosis Teen Treatment
When a teen struggles with both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a co-occurring mental health disorder it is termed Dual Diagnosis. Whether the SUD developed first, causing the mental health disorder, or the other way around is immaterial. Both disorders must be treated in a coordinated manner for a successful recovery outcome.
There is no question that the adolescent with an SUD and a co-existing mood disorder complicates the treatment picture. A skilled psychotherapist can guide the teen towards exploring underlying emotional pain to help understand the contributing factors toward both the SUD and the accompanying depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or other mental health disorders. Only by examining the whole psychological picture can an effective, individualized treatment plan be developed.
How Teen Dual Diagnosis Develops
When an adolescent presents with a dual diagnosis, the odds are high that the mental health component likely appeared first. Often the teen with a dual diagnosis experienced difficulties in childhood—possibly exhibiting impulsive behavior, poor frustration tolerance, aggressive behavior—that may be organic in nature, such as with ADHD or a learning disability, or as the reflection of abuse or neglect, trauma, or dysfunction in the family.
The SUD may have developed as a method of self-medicating internal struggles and turmoil that found no healthy outlet. By the time the teen has an entrenched drug or alcohol problem, the combined consequences of the psychological issues, related school and social problems, and deteriorating family relationships have taken a significant toll.
On the other hand, a teen from a seemingly healthy family environment may have an unknown genetic propensity for developing addiction. If the teen engages in enough substance use it can activate changes in the brain that lead to increased tolerance. Increased use of the drug can lead to chemical dependency, which then causes the many negative consequences that can follow. As these adverse consequences compound and impact the teen’s life, depression or anxiety can result. In this case, the SUD appeared first, with the mental health disorder a result of the negative consequences related to the SUD.
Treating a Teen Dual Diagnosis
Because each teenager is unique in his or her treatment requirements and needs, a thorough mental and physical evaluation is conducted prior to starting treatment. Based on this assessment, a customized treatment plan can be created. Treatment for a dual diagnosis includes:
- Detox and Withdrawal. A medical detox is necessary when the SUD has a lengthy history and dependency has developed. Through the medical detoxification phase, the body cleanses itself of the chemical toxins related to the substance of abuse, providing the teen with a better chance for participating fully in the subsequent treatment for both the SUD and the mental health component.
- Active treatment of the dual diagnosis. The teen will be guided toward the best treatment fit for his or her particular situation. An inpatient treatment program provides the highest standard of treatment for a dual diagnosis, with in-depth therapeutic interventions and activities integrated for both disorders. An outpatient treatment program is appropriate for a mild SUD and a mental health disorder that is responsive to medications.
Whichever program is selected to treat the teen’s dual diagnosis, it will encompass individual psychotherapy, group therapy, medication management, addiction education, relapse prevention, and adjunct experiential therapies, such as meditation, mindfulness training, and art therapy.
- Continuing care. After completion of a dual diagnosis treatment program it is imperative that outpatient therapy be ongoing, albeit to a lesser degree as active treatment. There is much value in continuing to receiving counseling and participating in group therapy sessions, which will help ensure a successful treatment outcome.
About BNI Treatment Centers
Behavioral Neuroscience Institute (BNI) Treatment Centers provides individually tailored safe and effective dual diagnosis teen treatment for teens aged 12-17. Owned and operated by medical doctors, the team at BNI Treatment Centers has in depth experience with addiction psychiatry and dual diagnosis. BNI Treatment Centers provides a powerful medical and psychological support team to aid teens in early recovery, in addition to developing a long-term treatment plan for them.