Depression and Substance Abuse:  A Dangerous Combination

Depression and Substance Abuse

Depression and Substance Abuse:  A Dangerous Combination

Everyone has those days when they feel that the whole world is against them.  Sometimes it’s because of problems at work, or troubled relationships, or financial issues.  But, it’s important to remember that a bad day does not necessarily mean you are depressed. The consequences of depression and substance abuse have destroyed far too many lives.  That is a good reason to avoid medications if possible.

If you’re having a bad day, try doing some of the things that make you happy and see how you respond.  Don’t be tempted to go to your doctor to get a prescription for an antidepressant when things aren’t going your way.  This is a behavior that has led many people into a lifetime of substance abuse. To get an idea of how dangerous the combination of depression and substance abuse can become, take a look at the following facts.

Factors That Cause Depression Also Contribute to Substance Abuse

In a nationwide study of more than 43,000 adults, researchers found that about 20 percent of the participants struggled with both depression and alcohol addiction.  The study also reveals that many of the factors that contribute to depression also fuel substance abuse problems. In many cases, the person has a family history of drug abuse and depression. Many of the participants also had imbalances in brain chemistry or instances of past trauma. These facts demonstrate that there is a strong connection between substance abuse and depression.

When a person has a dual-diagnosis such as depression and substance abuse, finding the right treatment program is crucial to successful recovery.  The facility must be equipped to manage and treat both aspects of the disorder concurrently. But, how does a person determine whether they are clinically depressed or simply having a period of life challenges?  No one gets through life without a few short periods of irritability, frustration, grief, or sadness. We need to know how to differentiate between a case of the blues and clinical depression. There is a huge difference. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Take Heed of These Symptoms of Depression

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines depression as:

A condition lasting for a minimum of two weeks and which interferes with one’s ability to work, function in a social setting and maintain healthy relationships.”

When a person is depressed he or she will usually display five or more of the following symptoms daily:

  • Changes in appetite, weight changes
  • Anxiety, general irritability
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Erratic sleep patterns
  • Low energy levels
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of interest in daily routines
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling worthless
  • Sadness, tearfulness
  • Thoughts of suicide, or suicidal attempts

Depression typically interferes with a person’s ability to function in daily responsibilities, perform at work, or maintain healthy relationships. It is usually at this point that the individual turns to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the pain and emptiness they experience.  Eventually, the depression and substance abuse feed each other, and the condition spirals out of control.

Breaking the Cycle of Depression and Substance Abuse

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine which came first, the depression or the substance abuse.  They both share similar underlying causes. For instance, some people attempt to self-medicate what they believe is depression with drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, rather than resolve the problem, it generally only gets worse. The substances can exacerbate the depression, fueling the need for more of the substance, and the cycle continues.  On the other hand, a person who is struggling with substance abuse often falls into a depression over their inability to control the behavior.

Another factor in the depression and substance abuse equation stems from imbalances in the brain’s chemical pathways  When these pathways are disrupted the individual can experience depression. If they turn to stimulants to counteract the symptoms, the drug cause more damage to the brain by interfering with dopamine production, and this leads to an increased need for the drug.

Breaking the cycle of depression and substance abuse should only be attempted by experienced addiction treatment providers. Dual-diagnosis disorders must be handled carefully. Each contributing factor of the disorder must be addressed before the individual can recover.  This level of treatment must include counseling, skills training, relapse prevention techniques, confidence building activities, and much more.

Let Behavioral Rehabilitation Services Help You or Your Loved One

Finding the right program to help you or a loved one overcome depression and substance abuse is one phone call away.  At Behavioral Rehabilitation Services, you’ll get the support, guidance, education, and tools you need to heal from this life-altering disorder.  Contact us today to learn more about our program.

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