Dual diagnosis is a term that specifically refers to people who would consider themselves both alcoholics and drug addicts, or people who have had problems with both alcohol and drugs. The term arose mainly in rehabs and treatment centers, and it is important to understand this context.
Initially treatment centers and rehabs treated people who had a problem with alcohol, whether they were turned alcoholics or problem drinkers, or people who had alcohol abuse issues. As this industry grew, people entered rehab who not only had problems with alcohol but with other substances including many narcotic drugs, and various behaviours.
Treatment centers and rehabs quickly picked up on this, and in the specific case of people who have problems with both alcohol and drugs they refer to them as being dual diagnosed. In addition, the rehab industry widened their scope of potential clients or a client base by beginning to define people as an addictive personality.
This meant that in effect, any individual who had any addiction to any substance or any type of addictive behaviour could be labelled as an addictive personality, and their particular addiction, whether substance or behaviour, could be labelled their drug of choice.
There are many people who believe that the terminology employed in the idea of an addictive personality and a drug of choice is simply to enhance the pool of people who can be susceptible to needing to go into treatment.
There are other people who defend the term addictive personality as being a reasonably good definition of some help an individual who has a number of differing emotional drives and issues which fuel that alcoholism or addiction.
Whatever someone’s take on the term dual diagnosis, in reality it simply means that it refers to someone who has a problem but with alcohol and drugs, or has had a problem with alcohol and drugs and is now clean and sober.
In terms of 12 step recovery, what it really means is that individual will have used both alcohol and drugs at different stages of the alcoholism and addiction, and probably recognises a need to keep clear of both in order to stay clean and sober.