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Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers in California

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Many people with substance use disorders experience mental health symptoms in conjunction with their addiction. This phenomenon is known as “comorbidity,” or a co-occurring disorder in the medical community. In these instances, both mental health conditions occur simultaneously, and their interactions can present differently than either condition might on its own.1

About half of all people who experience the symptoms of a mental illness in their lifetime will also experience a substance use disorder.1 This article discusses treatment options for co-occurring disorders — sometimes called dual diagnosis rehab — in the state of California.

American Addiction Centers offers dual diagnosis rehab in California at our substance abuse treatment center in Laguna Beach. To learn more about our co-occurring disorder treatment options in California or across the entire nation, call

What is a Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring Disorder?

Often referred to as a dual diagnosis, a “co-occurring disorder” is the term used by medical or mental health professionals to describe an individual who presents symptoms of a mental health (or multiple mental health conditions) in conjunction with a substance use disorder.2

There is some discussion in the scientific community about the origin of this phenomenon. Still, evidence suggests that there may be common traits in neurological functioning or brain anatomy that promote co-occurring disorders.2 Other common risk factors may include family history or genetics, high-stress levels, or exposure to trauma.3

“Dual diagnosis” is often used interchangeably with co-occurring disorders and refers to the presence of two or more mental health and substance use disorders at the same time.3 In the field, “dual diagnosis” is often shorthand for a treatment program designed to address co-occurring conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment addresses symptoms of both substance abuse and mental illness disorders such as:4

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Co-occurring treatment often consists of a combination of behavioral therapy and medication, but it may also include other interventions.3 For example, if you have depression, anxiety, or PTSD, you may use alcohol or drugs to cope with your emotions. Dual diagnosis treatment could help you understand what led you to use substances and develop more adaptive coping skills.

In California, the prevalence of co-occurring disorders is high, with around a third of clients utilizing county mental health services having a severe mental illness and a substance use disorder between 2011 and 2015.4 According to the California Health Care Foundation, during those 5 years, the number of adults with co-occurring disorders rose by around 3.9%, increasing from 33.1% in 2011 to 34.4% by 2015.4

Signs You Need Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Only a medical professional can determine whether or not you need dual diagnosis treatment. However, several warning signs may indicate that you should reach out for help. Consider speaking to a medical professional if you have noticed any of the following symptoms:5

  • Using substances in situations that are dangerous to your health.
  • Struggling to fulfill important roles in your life at school, work, or home.
  • Continuing to use substances despite the problems in your interpersonal relationships.

Screening for co-occurring disorders includes the above symptoms of substance abuse and other common symptoms of mental illness. If you think your mental health condition may be contributing to problematic substance use, look out for the following warning signs such as:6

  • Withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Sudden changes in behavior or rapid mood swings.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in California

If you are seeking treatment for co-occurring disorders in California, American Addiction Centers has several locations throughout the state. Laguna Treatment Center in Aliso Viejo, California, is among its California rehab centers. This residential center treats co-occurring disorders and offers a variety of specialized treatments.

To speak with an admissions navigator at AAC, call . Your call will be kept private, and you will be given information about different treatment options in California that meet your individual needs, including verifying your insurance coverage.

What to Expect in CA Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

In California, co-occurring disorder treatment happens in a variety of settings. Residential or inpatient treatment is when a client lives at the facility while being treated and usually requires a longer length of stay.7 Outpatient treatment, by contrast, is shorter in duration, and clients participate in treatment for several hours per day, several times per week.7 It is critical to stay in treatment for its total duration because research has shown that 90 days or more in treatment is most effective.7

There are several common modalities that medical professionals may use in co-occurring disorder treatment to treat people with co-occurring conditions. The first is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), an approach that targets the harmful patterns between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that lead people to unhealthy coping skills.7 Another common approach is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which aims to treat those with co-occurring substance use disorders and severe emotional dysregulation such as borderline personality disorder.8 DBT helps clients identify their motivation for change, draw on natural strengths, and learn new skills to promote healthy ways of managing difficult emotions.8

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It is highly beneficial to screen for co-occurring mental health disorders while assessing the need for substance use treatment. More than 9 million people in the United States experienced co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in 2019.6 This prevalence tells us that it is vital to address the symptoms of these issues, their causes, and the interactions between them.

Additionally, the presence of one or more mental health conditions can increase the likelihood that you will develop a substance use problem due to self-medicating their symptoms with drugs or alcohol.4 This is risky because it can lead to changes in your brain’s structure and function, making you respond to substance use differently.3 Dual diagnosis treatment can be beneficial in this situation because it addresses both sets of symptoms simultaneously, viewing each problem as interconnected and sometimes interdependent.

Does Insurance Cover Co-Occurring Disorders?

In many cases, co-occurring disorder treatment can be covered by your insurance. It depends on several factors, including the length of treatment, the facility you choose, and the limitations of your insurance plan. You can reach out to your insurance plan directly or ask one of AAC’s admissions navigators to verify your benefits to find out more.

Medicaid and Medicare Coverage of Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment in California

Medicaid and Medicare may cover co-occurring disorder treatment in California on a case-by-case basis. You can reach out to your insurance provider or check with your desired rehab center to find out how your insurance benefits can be applied to the cost of your treatment.

How to Choose the Best Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment Center

When looking for the best co-occurring disorder treatment center, there are many factors to consider. Before starting treatment, you should speak to a medical professional about your medical and mental health needs. They can help you consider the type and length of treatment as the treatment setting, length of stay, treatment modality or approach, and program structure.

You may also have more specific questions, such as visitor policies in residential treatment or what ancillary wellness services are offered at a particular facility. Contact AAC today to speak privately with an admissions navigator and get your questions answered. They are knowledgeable about dual diagnosis treatment in California and will help you find the right treatment option.

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