Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness Logo on a shield

Adolescent Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis is a term used when an individual is grappling with both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse issue concurrently. This condition presents a unique set of challenges as both issues often fuel each other, making it harder to tackle either in isolation. 

In the context of adolescence, the complexity of dual diagnosis significantly escalates. Research shows that 30% – 45% of teenagers and young adults with mental health disorders also struggle with substance abuse. These individuals are not only grappling with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, but they are simultaneously engaged in a battle against substance misuse. 

Continue learning more about substance abuse in adolescents and it’s signs, risk factors and treatment options.

teen sitting and getting counseling because he has a dual diagnosis

What is a Dual Diagnosis?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, dual diagnosis occurs when an invididual experiences both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder at the same time. This could involve a combination of disorders such as depression and alcohol addiction, anxiety and opioid misuse, among others. The interplay between these two disorders often complicates the diagnosis and treatment process, as the symptoms can overlap, making it harder to distinguish between the two.
Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness Logo on a shield

Common Co-Occurring Disorders in Teens

Co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, is a term used in adolescent health care to describe a situation where a teenager is simultaneously dealing with a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem. Teens with substance abuse disorder frequently present with co-occurring disorders such as:

  • Conduct Disorder (CD): Adolescents diagnosed with CD, characterized by aggressive, destructive, or deceitful behavior, often exhibit a higher propensity for substance misuse.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Adolescents with ADHD, a disorder marked by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, may have a higher likelihood of substance misuse, potentially as a coping mechanism for their ADHD symptoms.
  • Mood Disorders: Mood disorders, which include conditions like depression and bipolar disorder, often co-occur with substance abuse in teens. The misuse of substances can exacerbate mood instability, further complicating treatment efforts.
  • Trauma-Related Disorders: Adolescents with trauma-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may resort to substance abuse to alleviate their distressing symptoms.

The challenges of treating these dual diagnoses are unique, as each disorder can amplify the other, complicating treatment and recovery. Recognizing these common co-occurring disorders and developing comprehensive, multi-faceted treatment strategies are essential in addressing adolescent health concerns.

young woman looking happy

Reach Out Today

Get In Touch By Sending Us a Message or Call
(855) 940-6229

Behavioral Signs of Substance Use

Identifying substance use in teenagers can be challenging, given the typical behavioral changes that occur during adolescence. However, there are several telltale signs to look out for. These may include:

  • Significant changes in behavior, such as sudden secrecy or withdrawal from friends and family
  • Drop in academic performance
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Unusual mood swings 

Marijuana, a substance commonly used by teenagers, is known to potentially lead to reduced motivation or ambition. For further understanding, it is beneficial to delve deeper into the effects of marijuana on teens. It’s important to remember that these signs may also indicate other issues, so professional consultation is vital for accurate diagnosis.

Other Signs of Substance Use

Beyond behavioral signs, there are physical and psychological signs that can indicate substance use in teenagers. Some of these can include:

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Poor physical coordination
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Noticeable decline in personal grooming
  • Unexplained paranoia
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sudden bouts of anxiety or fearfulness
Teen sitting getting emotional support from parent in therapy because he has a dual diagnosis
Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness Logo on a shield

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis at MCAW - Near Boston

Recognizing the complex nature of dual diagnosis, at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness, we adopt a comprehensive, holistic approach to treatment tailored to teens needs. Our professionals are trained to identify and recommend the treatment program option that will be most effective for your adolescent’s dual diagnosis.

We offer individual and group counseling, with an emphasis on family involvement as our dedicated team of professionals works tirelessly to provide adolescents with the support they need to overcome their challenges and lead fulfilling, healthy lives. If your teen is struggling with a dual diagnosis, contact us at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness today.

Clinically Reviewed by:

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Melanie Carbonneau is the Clinical Director at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness and is a licensed counselor and certified music therapist with a Ph.D. from Lesley University. She leads MCAW with a focus on holistic care, emphasizing the importance of family and community involvement in the healing process.