Why Alcohol and Dual Diagnosis Go Hand in Hand


Alcoholism is a fairly common disorder caused by stress, genetic predisposition, and mental health issues such as depression. If not controlled, alcoholics often experience a loss of control in their lives, from their personal health, to their job, to their family. When this is coupled by psychological issues, the consequences can be severe.

According to research conducted by the Department of National Statistics and the NHS in 2008, a total of 48% of students had never tried alcohol, compared to 39% in 2003. According to their statement, “Disorders related to alcohol abuse are generally classified into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.” Medications to treat alcohol addiction began to appear by 2009, and more than 150,000 medications were composed to treat the withdrawal side effects.

Alcohol Dependence

The moderate alcohol consumption among the youth and underage drinkers are not considered directly harmful. However, it has been estimated that about 18 million American adults are alcoholics or have problems associated with alcoholism. Those who have issues with alcoholism tend to continue drinking, even when they know the amount could be damaging. They may spend their entire day trying to avoid drinking, and find themselves unsuccessful when trying to cut back. A struggling alcoholic may isolate themselves from friends and family, and choose to not to seek help out of fear of being misunderstood or rejected.

Short Term and Long Term Abuse

Linked to suicide, alcohol abuse is more common amongst older men with a history of drinking or suffering from depression. Additionally, the person may take unnecessary risks such as driving under the influence. Alcohol abuse is categorized into two types – short and long-term abuse. In short-term abuse type of alcoholism, there are various negativities associated with it like injuries, violence, unsafe, sexual activities and finally social and financial problems. Examples of long term consequences are liver damage, pancreatitis, and memory loss.


Dual Diagnosis

This is a common phrase used to describe someone who suffers from both alcoholism and other mental health conditions like depression. Other commonly used names for it include co-morbid disorder, co-occurring disorders, and comorbidity. Individuals with a history of mental illness are more vulnerable to indulging in alcoholism than persons without any previous case of mental illness. Dual diagnosis can also be termed Co-Occurring Disorder (COD), a condition that includes experiencing a psychological sickness and substance abuse issues. It is the most generally used terms to characterize somebody who has a blend of substance abuse disorders like alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and other related psychological health conditions. A normal sufferer with a psychological health condition is significantly more liable to develop alcohol addiction than those without an emotional health condition.


Treatment for Alcoholism has Improved over the Years

Statistically, approximately 7.9 million Americans are suffering from a dual diagnosis that is linked to alcoholism. In the past, the relationship between alcohol and mental health were not confirmed, so the need for a separate treatment was always discouraged. Presently, there is enough information to tackle the two simultaneously, and with greater chances of success. According to the diary Addiction Science and Clinical Practice reports, drug and alcohol use may appear to limit the signs of an anxiety or emotional issues, making it difficult to notice when an individual has a problem.

Side Effect of Alcoholism in Relation to Dual Diagnosis

 Just like the dual diagnosis, there are some significantly dangerous outcomes connected to alcoholism. People that consume large quantities of alcohol for long time periods are said to have difficulties cutting down, resulting in a number of issues.

Failure to fulfill their social and professional responsibilities – Dual Diagnosis victims that are mostly linked to alcoholism always find it difficult to function socially. In their workplaces, they’re accused of incompetence which often leads to reprimand or termination.

Social Problems – The fights you normally see in nightclubs are caused by individuals who have consumed far too many alcoholic beverage. Most of the violence within the home front is also seen to be propelled by alcohol.

Drunk Driving – the majority of road accidents that happen throughout the world are associated with drunk driving.

Severe Health Issues – Long term abuse affects the brain, heart, liver, immune system, and pancreas. Other illnesses such as Wernicke Korsakod syndrome is said to be an irregular heartbeat of the liver, and has the propensity to increase the risk of cancer.

Pancreatitis – A painful inflammation of the pancreas that often requires intensive treatment. The inflammation is likely related to premature activation of proenzymes to pancreatic enzymes and chronic exposure to acetaldehyde along with other chemical activities that disrupt the natural function. It has been estimated that around 70% of cases of pancreatitis affect people who regularly drink large amounts of alcohol.

 Cancer - Heavy alcohol consumption has the capacity to increase the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, stomach, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. Both acetaldehyde and the alcohol itself contribute to the heightened risk.

Gastrointestinal problems - Heavy drinking is also linked to health problems that are mostly associated with the digestive system, such as stomach ulcers, acid reflux, heartburn, and inflammation of the stomach lining, also known as gastritis. As alcohol initially passes through the gastrointestinal area, it begins to apply its toxic effects on the digestive system, and can lead to dangerous internal bleeding from enlarged veins in the esophagus.

Brain Damage – Regular consumption of substantial Alcoholic substances into the system is related to obscured vision, poor communication, memory loss, and delay in response time. It modifies the cerebrum receptors and neurotransmitters and also interferes with an individual subjective capacity, dispositions, feelings, and responses on numerous levels. Since alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, it causes difficulty in processing information and poses challenges with solving simple problems. Alcohol's effect on serotonin and GABA receptors may cause neurological changes that could lead to a reduction in a person's inhibitions, contributing to risk-taking or violent behaviors. Excessive drinking can cause "blackouts" or the inability to remember events. Long-term heavy drinking can speed up the brain's normal aging process, resulting in early and permanent dementia. Until the age of 24 years, the brain is still developing. As a result, young adults are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol.

Osteoporosis - Alcohol consumption, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood, can dramatically affect bone health, and may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, with a loss of bone mass later on in life. Osteoporosis increases the danger of breaks, particularly in the proximal femur of the hip. Alcohol meddles with the absorption of calcium, vitamin D creation, and cortical levels, adding to the potential debilitating of bone structure. Individuals who drink unreasonably are more likely to crack a vertebrae than the individuals who don't.

Alcoholism Is Especially Dangerous to Youth

Excessive use of alcohol has been blamed to be the fundamental propagator of violence in the United States, and it has been proven that drunk-driving is the most preventable cause of death. Those who begin drinking as minors, specifically at the age of 18 or earlier, are five times more likely to become alcoholics in comparison to those who start at 21.

Normal Dual Diagnosis Conditions with Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can actually affect victims of any psychological disorder. In any case, people that suffer from Dual Diagnosis Conditions are seen to be prone to consume more alcohol substances than others. The most basic ones include:


Currently, the most well-known emotional health condition, depression is believed to be the most common condition associated with alcohol addiction. Victims of depression usually turn to alcohol to enable them to lighten the most exceedingly bad side effects of their condition, for example, misery, sadness, forlornness, and self-destructive contemplations.

In the United States, about 18% of the American population have experienced some type of personal discomfort in uncontrollable situations at some point in their life. Alcohol is especially alluring to victims of depression because it helps them to relax, and inhibits the feelings of depression temporarily. Those who are awkward, or experience social anxiety specifically feel that alcohol helps to them to function better and find more enjoyment social situations. Nonetheless, alcohol will eventually worsen this uneasiness after some time, especially after consuming large amounts.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder and the abuse of alcohol are often seen as similar in their characteristics. According to research findings, the majority of bipolar victims have issues with compulsion sooner or later in their lives, and quite often turn to alcohol to deal with it. This is said to represent 61% of Bipolar I patients, and 48% of Bipolar II patients. The use of alcohol during extreme bouts of bi-polar disorder is particularly dangerous, in that it exacerbates the symptoms.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

It has been estimated that around 25% of OCD victims still struggle with some kind of alcohol-related issues like immune system dysfunction, brain damage, and vitamin deficiencies. One of the most common reasons that OCD victims prefer alcohol as comforting tool is because they actually believe it will take their mind away from negative thoughts that arise. Unfortunately, alcohol actually has a tendency to increase their obsessive compulsion rapidly. This then becomes a cycle that only becomes worse with time if it isn’t treated properly.

The Most Effective Method to Treat Alcohol Abuse

Most of the time, the first step to treating alcohol abuse is recognizing there is a problem. Similarly, as with numerous medical problems, the second step is to look for assistance from a social insurance expert. Those who make the connection between their destruction behavior, their mental disorders, and their alcohol abuse, will often seek out help through rehabilitation centers and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Sadly, there are those who don’t recognize their problem or refuse to admit there is one. The choice not to ask for help often results in the person’s life spiraling out of control. Their inability to function at work puts them in a position where they’re at risk for poverty. Since they tend to isolate themselves from family, they may not have anyone to help pull them out of the slump. This eventually causes the major health and social issues that have been covered above.

Finding Help and Treatment

• Psychological and psychosocial treatment can include advising in other to enable the victim to comprehend and change his/her mentality towards drinking.

• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also be recommended to enable change that negative thought that prompt drinking.

• Mutual help, for example, helps victims recover faster and also on the grounds that individuals alter their reasoning and their behaviors to themselves as well as other people.

Significant Causes for Dual Diagnosis

More often than not, those who have dual diagnosis may come to the idea that drinking or taking controlled substances helps their symptoms and gives them a temporary feeling of strength and confidence. In any case, it is simply a question of time before this false confidence begins to overcome the person’s actual personality, making that desire for more alcohol persistent. This is also known as “self-medicating,” and generally results in serious withdrawal symptoms, or mixture of alcohol with prescription medication designed for those with dual diagnosis.

Self-Medicating and Changes in the Brain

Several years of self-medicating alters the chemical compounds in our brain. For example, your body releases serotonin, the chemical that makes you feel good, when you exercise or eat good food. We need a healthy level of serotonin in our bodies to keep us happy, those with depression and schizophrenia don’t always naturally produce this chemical the way that they should. This is why an individual who turns to alcohol or drugs for comfort often ends up making the situation much worse; it is better to seek professional help, especially for those who have dual diagnosis.

How to Help a Loved One Who May Be Struggling with Alcoholism

In the event that individuals around you are showing indications of alcohol dependence, it can be hard figuring out how to handle the situation. It’s incredibly disheartening and stressful when you want to help someone who has no desire to be helped, or isn’t aware that they need it. This is a completely normal and very common, and you aren’t alone in this. Talk openly with your loved ones about their drinking, and attempt to influence them to see a specialist. The person in question may or may not react defensively; remember, they’re already struggling with an internal battle. Don’t take it personally, just try to remain strong, non-judgmental, understanding, and make it clear that your intentions are only to help them and be a shoulder to lean on.

Your Loved One Needs Some Positive Reinforcement

When someone is abusing alcohol, it’s likely because they’re trying to avoid negative emotions and thoughts. Those with OCD and other psychological disorders self-medicate with prescription medications and alcohol to gain some relief. They need help transitioning their negative thoughts into a clear, positive, productive goal. For example, they may start with staying clean for at least one week, then a month, then a year. This way, they’re able to hold themselves accountable if they do slip up and have another drink. Unfortunately, people without support quickly fall out of their goal, especially when they fail.

Be there to remind that everyone fails in life, but more important than the failure is the reason that started them on a path to sobriety in the first place. When they get the urge to drink, encourage your loved one to write down their goals, and their reasons for getting healthy. A clear timeline along with incentives that can be visualized and reached gives the alcoholic a motive to keep moving forward. All they need is something that matters more than a drink, and it must be achievable.

Why a Dual Diagnosis?

The circumstance of mental pressure and substance abuse is furthermore called Comorbidity. Having one with the other is normal for different reasons. In a circumstance where you are dependent on drugs, you are twice as prone to have a psychological issue or some other related cases, especially a disposition issue. Additionally, people who are unable to control their temper have been affirmed to be twice as conceivable being inclined to drugs or alcohol abuse which after some time rapids addiction.

 There are various reasons why these two issues go together. For example, one can easily lead to another. Take for instance that you battle with a mood disorder; you may look to medications or drinking as a type of self-medication. This is especially likely in the event that you don't get treatment for your psychological instability. However, being misdiagnosed or improperly treated can cause other problems to manifest. Both dysfunctional behavior and substance abuse have a few hazard factors in common which include stress, family history, severe injury and early introduction to other harmful drugs.

Use Your Resources to Combat Dual Diagnosis

Being an alcoholic is difficult enough without dealing with the struggle of a mental disorder as well. Sometimes, those who are battling this diagnosis don’t have friends or family to pull them through it. Alcoholics without a strong support system often give up on their goal to quit drinking because they have no one to turn to when the urge to drink arises. To help combat the feelings of isolation and failure, groups and organizations offer free counseling through hotlines and meetings. Sufferers of addiction are able to openly speak out about their problems without the fear of being judged or reprimanded. Additionally, they’re able to meet people who have been through similar struggles, or much worse. When alcoholics and addicts are able to see that they aren’t alone, and that there is hope for the future, they’re far more likely to succeed.

Family Can Sometimes Contribute to the Problem

Sometimes, AA meetings are more beneficial than the support of family or friends. People who have loved ones that suffer from this disease sometimes enable or make excuses for the person out of guilt. It’s important for families to understand that they are not at fault, and are not responsible for the choices of the person in question. Since dual diagnosis alcoholics are battling more than one problem, you’re likely to see more frustration, and possibly demands from the person to allow them to continue their negative behaviors. Loved ones are more likely to take it personally, and attempt to deflect the frustration by giving them a drink or complying with said demands.

Sponsors Give Alcoholics Someone to Reach Out To

Sponsors are much more effective in dealing with this issue, because they’re already in long term recovery. A sponsor can relate better to other addicts and alcoholics as an experienced and recovered addict themselves. They’re able to better predict the patterns in a person’s behavior, and redirect them to a positive, non-self-destructive solution.

Choose the Right Sponsor

Not all sponsors are a good fit, so it’s important for the person in question to ask around and make sure that their sponsor is truly following the 12-step program. While they make for a great support system, those with dual diagnosis should consider seeking out professional counseling. People with DD may need to be placed on medication for their psychological issues, and this isn’t something that a sponsor is able to do. A counselor is more qualified to dig in, find the root of the problem, and offer their professional advice. Counseling is also confidential, and more than anything, addicts and people with DD need to be able to express themselves completely to someone who won’t respond emotionally. There is plenty of hope for anyone who is struggling with their mental health, so long as they seek it out!