For people with dual disorders (also known as “dual diagnosis”) in Florida and elsewhere, the attempt to obtain professional treatment can be bewildering and confusing. They may have problems arising within themselves as a result of their psychiatric and alcohol and other drug (AOD) use disorders as well as problems of external origin that derive from the conflicts, limitations, and clashing philosophies of the mental health and addiction treatment systems. For example, internal problems such as frustration, denial, or depression may hinder their ability to recognize the need for help and diminish their ability to ask for help. A typical external problem might be the confusion experienced when individuals need services but lack knowledge about the different goals and processes of various types of available services. Other problems of external origin may be very fundamental, such as the inability to pay for child care services or the lack of transportation to the only available outpatient program.
Historically, when patients in alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment exhibited vivid and acute psychiatric symptoms, the symptoms were either: 1) unrecognized, 2) observed but misdescribed as toxicity or “acting-out behavior,” or 3) accurately identified, prompting the patients to be discharged or referred to a mental health program. Virtually the same process occurred for patients in mental health treatment who exhibited vivid and acute symptoms of AOD use disorders.
As a result, the treatment system itself may be a stumbling block for some people attempting to receive ongoing, appropriate, and comprehensive treatment for combined psychiatric and AOD use disorders. Thus, treatment services for patients with dual disorders must be sensitive to both the individual’s and the treatment system’s impediments to the initiation and continuation of treatment.