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Medication can be invaluable in the control of mental illness, and having a co-occurring addiction or substance abuse problem does not change this fact.

There are some treatment programs or support groups that do not believe in the use of medication for any reasons – claiming, amongst other things, that people on medication are not sober…or, ‘you can’t take drugs to beat a drug problem’.

These statements are false, and dangerous.

Doctor prescribed medications, used according to a treatment plan, do not get you high. They control brain chemistry to stabilize symptoms of mental illness.

Just as a person who takes a medication for heart disease or diabetes is still sober, so too is a person who takes medication prescribed to control mental illness.

Treatment programs that do not allow the use of medications may not have medical staff available that can understand these drugs, or they may object to them on misguided philosophical grounds. Whatever the reason – if you need medication to control your mental illness, you are far better off finding a treatment program or support group that understands and respects this need.

Who Is Most at Risk of Dual Diagnosis?

Although anyone can succumb to mental illness and substance abuse/addiction, people in some situations are at greater risk. In general, the more risk factors a person has, the greater their likelihood of dual diagnosis.

Risk factors include:

  • Poor academic or employment performance
  • Poverty
  • Having few social relationships
  • Unstable or unsafe housing – or a lack of housing
  • Having a family history of mental illness or addiction
  • Family problems
  • Suffering trauma or abuse, whether today or from the past

Although some people are at greater risk, many people living with significant risk factors never experience addiction or mental illness. 1

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Page last updated Aug 30, 2010

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