Whether or not we care to admit it, there’s always a rush to judgment whenever someone is charged with an alcohol-related offense. To police and prosecutors, the person who has been charged is simply a criminal who should be punished. In the court of public opinion, someone charged with DUI or DWI is often viewed as reckless, irresponsible, or worse.
At Kans Law Firm, we prefer to reserve judgment until we learn the whole story – and then we act accordingly. This approach is based not only on our extensive experience as criminal defense lawyers specializing in DUI and DWI cases, but also on our understanding that clients facing these charges are people whose choices got them into trouble.
To provide the best possible representation for our clients in these cases, we must determine:
1) If they were actually driving under the influence of alcohol when they were stopped, and if so;
2) Why they chose to drink and drive.
Often, this assessment reveals there were other factors at play.
What is dual diagnosis?
Just because someone drinks a lot doesn’t mean they have a mental illness. And just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean they’ll drink too much.
In some cases, however, someone who is struggling with mental illness will use alcohol or other substances to alleviate or mask the symptoms. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates 33 percent of people struggling with alcohol abuse also suffer from a mental illness.
The determination that someone suffering from a mental illness is also misusing alcohol or drugs is called a dual diagnosis.
When someone has a dual diagnosis, the symptoms of alcoholism and a mental illness often compound one another. As a result, any alcohol consumption can influence their emotional health and vice versa. When unaddressed, simultaneous mental illness and alcohol dependency can quickly worsen, resulting in poor decision-making and behavior.
Alcohol misuse and mental illness
People who abuse alcohol may also suffer from:
- Depression – a common mood disorder characterized by restlessness, loss of interest in daily activities and other activities; difficulty concentrating; loss of energy; irritability; and the inability to sleep.
- Bipolar disorder – a so-called manic-depressive disorder manifested in extreme, unpredictable changes in mood and erratic, reckless behavior.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – an anxiety disorder characterized by overpowering obsessions that prompt repeated actions or behaviors. Examples include counting certain things; frequent, unnecessary hand washing; and incessantly arranging items in a specific way.
How each of these conditions influences alcoholism is contingent on the duration and severity of the disorder.
Manifestation of co-occurring alcoholism and mental illness
Of course, everyone is different, so people grappling with alcoholism and a mental illness may not always have the same symptoms. Having said that, here are some common warning signs:
- Isolation from family and friends
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Decreased energy and motivation
- Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
- Avoiding personal or professional responsibilities
- Increased grumpiness, anger or anxiety
- Justifying excessive alcohol consumption
Within this context, it is important to note that people grappling with dual diagnosis are often ashamed or embarrassed. As a result, they may be reluctant to discuss what’s going on, and defensive if confronted.
Even son, early intervention in these cases is key to meaningful recovery. Therefore, it is essential to get advice and assistance from a qualified professional when addressing these issues.
A DUI or DWI arrest as a wakeup call
For a client who is suffering from a mental illness and abusing alcohol, being charged with DUI or DWI may serve as a much-needed wakeup call. Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, it may also be an opportunity to get some help.
Here are potential treatment options:
- Detoxification – this is usually the first step in a complete treatment plan. At this point, the body is completely ridded of alcohol. At the end of this process, the person who has been misusing alcohol will be able to go to an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.
- Inpatient rehab– this is a program held in a designated facility where the patient is constantly supervised. This type of treatment is usually geared towards patients with ongoing, long-term mental illness and alcoholism. These facilities usually offer therapy, support groups and medication-based treatment for alcoholism, and mental health issues.
- Outpatient rehab– this type of rehab permits patients to receive treatment for simultaneous mental illness and substance abuse while still taking care of routine personal and professional responsibilities. While in this type of treatment, patients must go to a rehab facility several times per week to participate in various programs and support groups. Treatment specialists in this type of setting teach patients how to cope with their dual diagnosis and challenges of daily life.
Caring, compassionate attorneys who will fight for you
At the Kans Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys are fully equipped and ready to fight for your rights. Not only are they well versed in Minnesota’s DWI and DUI laws but they are also familiar with the criminal justice system.
This is crucial because a DWI or DUI conviction can have lasting consequences. In addition to resulting in the potential loss of your driver’s license, being found guilty of a drunk driving charge could also affect your job and other aspects of your life.
If you are struggling with alcoholism and a mental illness, you have even more at stake, so don’t leave anything to chance. Contact us today.
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