If a person suffers from drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and an eating disorder, which do you treat first?

This is a great question as it goes to the very heart of dual diagnosis treatment. It is a well-known fact that when treating someone with a dual diagnosis, the addiction and psychiatric disorder must be treated co-currently if the treatment is to be effective. If one disorder remains untreated, it will act as a catalyst for relapse concerning the other. The treatment philosophy regarding dual diagnosis treatment remains intact with regards to eating disorders and drug addiction, where the drug addiction and eating disorder must be treated simultaneously.

Regardless of which illness or addiction is primary, if a person continues to use drugs while being treated for an eating disorder or eats compulsively, binges or purges while recovering from drug addiction, it will not be long before they completely relapse from both disorders. Self-esteem is a critical element in maintaining long-term recovery, and it is nearly impossible to maintain the level of self-esteem required when a person is engaged in self-destructive behavior. So, rehab treatment option should address all he problems.

What are my treatment options? Should I seek out rehab centers, alcohol/drug addiction treatment programs, eating disorder programs, or dual diagnosis treatment programs?

As if treatment for eating disorders, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse isn’t challenging enough, it can become even more confusing when deciding where to go for treatment. In most cases, but not all, when a person is dealing with an eating disorder, drug addiction, or alcohol addiction, the person’s thoughts regarding food and weight predated the onset of their drug addiction. Generally speaking, this would make the eating disorder the primary condition and usually the last the patient would choose to relinquish. This tells us the patient will require comprehensive treatment around the eating disorder.

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It is always wise when dealing with drug addiction or alcoholism to look for alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs that are medically based. Medically-based alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs have detox staff that is able to help patients deal with drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and any resulting medical issues that may present themselves. In looking for a drug detox program for a person with an eating disorder, it is equally important that the staff is capable of addressing and effectively managing the eating disorder behavior of each patient. Remember, as the person with an eating disorder begins to detox from their drug addiction or alcohol addiction, there tends to be an increase in their bingeing, purging, or restricting behavior as a means to regain control of their feelings. Staff at alcohol/drug addiction treatment programs must understand the dynamics associated with a person suffering from compulsive eating, bulimia, or anorexia going through the process of inpatient detox.

When people with an eating disorder decide to refrain from their behavior, they experience psychological withdrawal symptoms similar to the addict or alcoholic and will look for any way possible to eliminate those feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, or fear. To have successful and long-term recovery, actual drug alcohol rehab or eating disorder treatment must take place.

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