Dual Diagnosis

Having a ‘dual diagnosis’ means that someone who has mental heath problems also has problems with one or more drugs, including alcohol. People with a dual diagnosis may not be as likely to try to get help, and they may have more complex needs than people with either mental health problems or substance misuse problems alone.

Making a dual diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a term commonly used to describe people who have a combination of mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and personality disorder as well as drug problems (also known as ‘substance misuse’). This is what we mean by dual diagnosis, but you might also see dual diagnosis used in other contexts, such as when someone has a mental health problem and a learning disability.

It is quite common for people with a diagnosis of a mental health condition to also misuse substances, and having a dual diagnosis often leads to problems with physical health and wellbeing, social functioning, money and housing.

The diagnosis of a mental health condition is made by a doctor or psychiatrist. It is important that during an assessment the potential role of substance misuse is looked at . A doctor will need to know if drugs may be causing any symptoms or if a person will need extra support due to their drug problem.

The symptoms of psychosis brought on by drug use (‘drug-induced psychosis’) can be similar to psychosis experienced in mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and this can sometimes make it difficult for an accurate diagnosis to be made.