What frustrated me about Charles’ treatment was how the behavioral health community silo-ed treatment. When he was using, the advice was to treat the substance use disorder first. He was not addicted at this point.
I didn’t know Charles was suffering from thoughts of suicide and no one ever suggested or gave him a suicide screening or did a proper psychological evaluation to offer a diagnosis. I kept asking for a diagnosis and it’s still shocking that no one ever did that evaluation. I never shut up about it but apparently they found me very easy to ignore.
How does someone put their depression on hold? And how do they put suicidal ideation on hold? And why would professionals suggest we ignore one thing to fix another first? Maybe it was because they didn’t have a protocol to treat a dual diagnosis.
If he’d had diabetes and cancer at the same time would they have told him to ignore the diabetes until they could treat the cancer?
If you are currently looking for treatment for a loved one with SUD and mental illness, look into Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT). It is an evidence-based practice that improves quality of life for people with co-occurring severe mental illness and substance use disorders by combining substance abuse services with mental health services. It helps people address both disorders at the same time—in the same service organization by the same team of treatment providers.
This is what I wanted and never got and I have no idea why it wasn’t as obvious to treatment professionals as it was to me. (I’m still angry about it.) The brain doesn’t separate disorders or physical illness from mental illness. The brain puts it all in a big bowl like cake batter and mixes it all together.
It’s our medical culture that wants to separate it all out nice and neat. We can’t expect someone in recovery to put one illness on hold so we can treat the other first because that’s what’s convenient. And for all you out there looking for treatment for someone who has both disorders, there is finally a protocol.