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Substance Abuse and Depression: The Link and The Treatment

People who are struggling with depression may turn to alcohol or drugs to try to ease their symptoms, while people who are abusing substances are more likely to experience depression. Unfortunately, these problems can feed off of each other, creating a vicious cycle.

Depression and substance abuse treatment

Substance Abuse and Depression

People who have experienced recent phases of severe depression have a higher probability of getting addicted to alcohol and drugs in comparison to the rest of the public, according to various surveys conducted by health services organizations.

Substance Abuse and Depression Statistics

As per a recent study, more than twenty-one percent of people who go through a depressive period within the preceding year get involved in substance abuse in comparison to eight percent of those individuals not suffering from depression.

As stated in a research review article published in NCBI PMC, "Among individuals with a mood disorder, 32 percent had a co-occurring SUD. Of individuals with lifetime major depression, 16.5 percent had an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent had a drug use disorder."

What Comes First, Depression or Substance Abuse?

It is not at all apparent which one of the two occurs first. Depression may be caused by substance abuse and substance abuse may also lead to the case of depression. In a few cases, both problems are generated by a common external factor.

An individual managing depression may attempt to self-medicate by opting for alcohol or drugs – depression may often direct people towards drinking habits that make matters even worse. People do not understand the fact that in an endeavor to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, they are making use of a depressant. In simple words, it will increase their depression.

Drugs also intensify their depression in the same way alcohol does. These people misinterpret or misread their depression as some kind of low feeling and get addicted to these things.

On the contrary, an alcoholic or an addict whose substance abuse issue has become uncontrollable may experience depressive episodes due to his unhealthy habits. As a result, he may experience illusions and hallucinations. If his depression gets worse, even more, he may undertake to commit suicide.

Substance use disorder and serious mental issues like depression go hand in hand so often that medical health care practitioners have created a term for this – dual diagnosis.

Causes of Depression and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and depression at times evolve from similar sources. Researchers have found several relations between substance abuse and depression. The most common one is shared or common brain areas that are affected. This means that substance abuse influences the same brain regions that are being influenced by mood disorders or depression.

Genetic factors that a person inherits from his biological parents can result in the person developing depression. Once depression has occurred then the probability of getting into addiction is more due to genetic factors.

Environmental factors like trauma or stress are responsible for developing both substance abuse and depression.

The problems in the development of the brain can also lead an individual to substance abuse and depression later on in life. Using drug at an early age damage the development of the brain and afterward causes mental disorders like depression.

Identifying the signs of substance abuse

The family and friends are the first ones to identify the symptoms of substance abuse. The identification of these signs is of immense importance. Early detection enhances the chances of successful treatment and cure. These signs comprise:
  • abandonment of activities like homework, sports, or spending time with friend circle,
  • irritation and violent behavior,
  • loss of memory,
  • being careless with money and other valuables,
  • developing suicidal tendencies,
  • being self-centered,
  • using room fresheners in place of body deodorants,
  • regular consumption of drugs and alcohol,
  • lying especially about drugs or drinking habits,
  • avoidance of friends for the pleasure of drinking,
  • developing beliefs that drinking is the only way t have fun,
  • compelling others for drinking,
  • frequent hangovers,
  • undertaking sexual risks,
  • frequent blackouts,
  • constant discussion about drugs or drinks,
  • taking law in one’s hand,
  • suspension from school or college due to drug-related episodes or drinking and driving.
Read more here in detail on → Substance Abuse, Addiction and Alcoholism.

Depression and Substance Abuse Treatment

The treatment of both depression and substance abuse/addiction must be ensured for the sufferer to have a quick recovery. If the person suffering from both only treats one problem, the chances of his getting well are fewer until he undergoes the treatment of the other problem as well.

The treatment for present alcohol or drug users should commence with detoxification. Detoxification permits an individual to handle the symptoms of abandonment of these habits when the body is working to eliminate all traces of alcohol or drug in his system.

Drug users should leave their addiction before the solemn work of recuperation begins. Until and unless these people are free from the clutches of this stuff, they can only encounter these psychological problems outwardly as alcohol and drugs are covering the condition.

The patients will go for dual diagnosis treatment after detoxification. They will go through a rehabilitation program to manage their alcohol or drug issues. They will further require obtaining simultaneous and synchronized treatment for their gloominess. This treatment may involve antidepressants, therapy, and communication with a motivational or support group.

Few of the recovery groups discourage prescribing medication due to their belief that it may challenge or hamper the recovery of addicts. Nevertheless, dual diagnosis therapy, consisting of antidepressants, is intended to deal with the various symptoms to provide stability and regulate brain chemicals.

However, the majority of substance abusers think that they can discontinue using alcohol or drugs at the individual level. They believe that they do not require the assistance of these support or recovery groups. Ultimately most of them who try self-medication fail largely.

The studies exhibit that the long duration of drug abuse changes the functioning of the brain and toughens the discontinuation of drugs. This yearn prolongs even after the drug addict discontinues using it. Due to these constant cravings, the most significant element of treatment is to prevent relapse.

Treatment of substance abuse relies on both the substance being abused and the person who is an addict. Behavioral treatment sometimes provides certain strategies to deal with drug longing and means to prevent relapse. The doctors can prescribe medications like methadone and nicotine patches to regulate withdrawal signs and drug cravings. The mental disorders must be treated with medical assistance and by way of counseling with the drug abuser as a compulsion.


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