Joint mental health and substance use assessments for improved treatment outcomes

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Mental illness and substance use often go hand in hand. When people are seeking help, particularly in a crisis situation, they are told they must stop using drugs and/or alcohol before they can access mental health support. 

However, according to the MIND website, The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines state: “If you have a dual diagnosis, mental health services should be responsible for your treatment, rather than drug or alcohol services.”

In the UK, it is estimated that 86% of people who access treatment for alcohol dependency experience mental health problems. Similarly, 70% of people in treatment for drug use also have a mental illness. For those people with co-existing mental health difficulties, depression and anxiety symptoms often as a result of underlying trauma tend to be the most common.

One of the key issues, for many people with a dual diagnosis, is that using a substance can be the way they cope with or mask mental health difficulties. Asking them to stop using substances means taking away their main coping strategy. Without immediate joint support it’s likely the person will return to using substances to block out the psychological distress.

This often leads to a revolving door scenario, whereby they will ask for support from mental health services only to be turned away. As a consequence they are at high risk leading to multiple A&E and psychiatric hospital admissions until they are able to get the vital support they need. 

We are calling on the government for a joint approach for people with dual diagnosis, from the point of assessment right through to treatment.


Twitter: @sam_thomas86