Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Orange County, CA

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Treating a substance use disorder, such as drug or alcohol addiction, is important. However, if you like more than 9 million U.S. adults, struggle with mental health problems alongside that substance use disorder, it is crucial that you get help for both. Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder, happens when you struggle with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, and it will critically affect your treatment and your recovery.

At Sheer Recovery, our Dual Diagnosis treatment programs focus on integrating care for both issues as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. We understand that substances have a complex relationship with mental illness. Coping with depression or anxiety may lead to misusing drugs or alcohol, an addiction may result in mental health problems, and the two can interplay together to exacerbate existing problems. Dual diagnosis treatment allows you to address substance use disorder as well as the underlying issues, so you have the tools to truly recover.

What is Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is most commonly referred to as co-occurring or comorbid disorders in medical terminology. This state includes any instance where a person is diagnosed as having both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder.

Dual diagnosis can include both conditions where the mental disorder developed first and was followed by a substance use disorder and vice versa. However, symptoms can heavily vary depending on the individual, their mental disorder, and which types of substances they are using. In most cases, you can recognize substance use disorder by symptoms like:


These can interact with mental health disorders in very different ways, especially in cases of anxiety, schizophrenia, and panic disorder, where individuals may rely on their substance to function and can cause panic attacks or anxiety without it.

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The Connection Between Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness

Substance use disorder is strongly connected with mental illness. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) lists that 15.7% of the general population is likely to abuse or rely on substances. This number goes up to 36.7% for individuals with any mental illness and up to 49.4% for individuals with severe mental illnesses.

This overlap exists because of two primary reasons, with a great deal of interplay between many other contributing factors. For example, individuals who are most vulnerable to mental disorders are also most vulnerable to substance use disorders. For example, children with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) are more vulnerable to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, are more vulnerable to substance use disorders, and are more likely to be in social and economic conditions that encourage or exacerbate substance use disorders.

Self-Medicating Existing Disorders

Self-medication is a phenomenon that contributes to a significant portion of addiction, because users develop substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

Here, individuals might drink, take a pill, or take more than their prescription to feel better. They haven’t been told to by a doctor and their “medication” is not regulated by anyone. This frequently leads to a pattern of escalation, because most substances result in tolerance and chemical dependence. Users have to increase their dose to reach the same effects, increasing the dose results in them feeling worse (hangovers, poor performance, less sleep) resulting in more stress or anxiety or depression, and more self-medication.


Many of these disorders cause intense mood changes, constant stress or distress, constant worry, feelings of hopelessness or inability to enjoy things, panic attacks, hallucinations, and other worse problems. Many result in social isolation, worsening anxiety, and increasing problems that escalate without treatment.

Individuals who use substances to self-medicate can typically temporarily alleviate these symptoms, feel better, feel like they belong, or simply forget everything.

Substance Abuse Exacerbates Symptoms

The second primary interplay between substance use disorder and mental illness is that substances can significantly exacerbate the symptoms of mental illness. This means that many people who start substance abuse without diagnosable mental illnesses may exacerbate those symptoms to the point of having a permanent condition. While it’s common to say “the substance caused the disorder” in these cases, the truth is much more often a complex interplay between existing mental states and vulnerabilities.

Many drugs directly exacerbate issues such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, and personality disorder. For example, emotional blunting is a common side-effect of using drugs that induce a high by affecting serotonin and dopamine receptors. Individuals who frequently use these drugs may struggle to feel anything at all.

Most mind-altering drugs, including alcohol, interact with receptors in the brain that influence how people think and feel. Over the long-term, the brain changes its production of these substances, typically reducing quantities of serotonin, dopamine, etc. This can actually cause depression and anxiety, although the results may vanish when individuals stop using.

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Dual Diagnosis Complicates Rehab Treatment

Most dual diagnosis rehab treatment programs take a dual-pronged approach to treat the mental disorder and the substance use disorder. This is important for several reasons, but largely in that mental disorders get in the way of substance addiction treatment and substance abuse might prevent treating mental disorders. In addition, patients with dual diagnosis have to work harder, overcome more problems, and essentially recover despite the return of major issues that may have pushed them to substance abuse in the first place.

Most rehab programs will take a “most dangerous symptom” first approach to first remove threats to the individual’s life and then focus on removing obstacles to recovery. For many patients, that means starting with detox and then moving into behavioral and motivational therapy. For others, it may mean starting with behavioral therapy or suicide prevention depending on what the patient is facing.

What Goes into Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Effective dual diagnosis treatment is about treating life-threatening issues and then following up with integrated treatment for both disorders. Dual diagnosis programs have to proactively treat the symptoms and causes of both disorders in order to achieve lasting results.


Detox is the first and most important step of any treatment program. Patients must stop using or drinking their substance and make it through the withdrawal period. This phase can vary significantly depending on the patient and their substance of choice. Persons with dual diagnosis are more likely to suffer from side-effects including anxiety, trauma, and panic. For this reason, it’s important to attend a medical detox facility and receive medical monitoring and psychological support throughout this process. Going to a rehabilitation facility before detox gives you the opportunity to detox in a safe environment, with support when things do go wrong.

In some cases, detox programs will include tapering schedules as recommended by your doctor. In others, you will detox within 7-14 days before moving onto the rest of treatment. Some individuals also benefit from Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT), in which case the detox period may be as short as a few days.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Most dual diagnosis patients benefit from inpatient rehab, where they receive more attention, care, and around-the-clock access to medical and psychological support personnel. Treatment centers provide therapy, support, medication, and health services such as nutrition programs, and are able to take a holistic approach to care by changing programs based on the individual and how they react. Inpatient rehab is not the only option, but it offers the most in terms of personalized support and access to health personnel, which is greatly beneficial for individuals with dual diagnosis. This will include behavioral therapy, counseling, group therapy, and likely complementary therapies.

Long-Term Care

Long-term care including aftercare, potentially stays in sober homes, and continued counseling and medication management may be necessary or beneficial. Here, it’s important to discuss your needs and condition after the rehab program.

Our Orange County Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program

At Sheer Recovery, we offer an inpatient dual recovery program designed to tackle every aspect of substance use disorder and mental disorders. Our Orange County dual diagnosis treatment center is a safe and supportive environment, designed to ensure you stay comfortable as you work through the issues surrounding mental health disorders and substance addiction. Our executive residential facilities keep the focus on maintaining a safe and comfortable environment, so you can recover in privacy and with dignity. During your stay, you’ll have full access to trained and knowledgeable staff members, who will assist you through the process of recovery.

Our dual diagnosis treatment program offers several phases, beginning with detox. Here, you receive 24/7 support to assist with mental and psychological withdrawal symptoms. After detox, each patient is assigned a case manager and a therapist, who will help you through the initial stages of recovery. We utilize testing to assess mental, emotional, and physical factors influencing your health and your substance use disorder. Sheer also utilizes pharmacogenomic testing to better understand how substance abuse, medication, and treatment options might work for you. This information is used to create a custom treatment plan including personal therapy, behavioral therapy, group counseling, and much more. Sheer also utilizes a Medication Management program to ensure you can continue to take needed medications to successfully manage medications during recovery.

Our goal is to ensure that every patient completes our programs with the tools to begin their new, sober life outside our walls. Many of our patients are encouraged to continue therapy on an outpatient basis. We also offer assistance joining support groups, continuing medication management, and getting help for your co-occurring disorder, so that you have the tools to live a happy, healthy life.

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