December 1, 2015
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Cocaine and Crack Abuse (cont.)

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How is cocaine addiction diagnosed?

There is no single test that indicates that someone is abusing or addicted to cocaine with complete certainty. Therefore, health care professionals diagnose these disorders by thoroughly gathering medical, family, and mental health information. The professional will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary care doctor do so. The medical examination usually includes lab tests to assess the person's general health and to explore whether or not the individual has a medical condition that includes mental health symptoms.

In asking questions about mental health symptoms, mental health professionals are often trying to find out if the person suffers from depressive and/or manic symptoms, as well as whether the individual suffers from anxiety, hallucinations, delusions or some behavioral disorders. Health care professionals may provide the people they evaluate with a quiz or self-test to screen for substance abuse or dependence. Since some of the symptoms of cocaine misuse and dependence can also occur in other mental illnesses, the mental health screening helps determine if the individual suffers from bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or other psychotic disorders, or a personality or behavior disorder like narcissistic personality disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), respectively. Any disorder that is associated with sudden changes in behavior, mood, or thinking, like bipolar disorder, a psychotic disorder, borderline personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder (DID), may be particularly challenging to distinguish from some symptoms of cocaine abuse or dependence. In order to assess the person's current emotional state, health care professionals perform a mental status exam as well.

In addition to providing treatment that is appropriate to the diagnosis and to the person in need of it, determining the presence of mental illnesses that may co-occur (comorbid/dual diagnosis) with cocaine abuse or dependence is important in promoting the best possible outcome. Dual diagnosis of cocaine-abusing or addicted individuals indicates the need for treatment that addresses both issues in an integrated fashion by professionals with training and experience with helping this specific population.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/20/2014


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