Drugs and Depression: Treating Drug Addiction & Depression

Depression is more than just episodes of sadness; it includes symptoms such as anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, loss of appetite and energy, weight loss, and anxiety. It is a mental illness that has a multifaceted relationship with substance abuse. The two disorders have a multi-directional connection whereby many drug addicts are diagnosed with depression and vice versa. Here are the drugs and depression facts you need to know.

Depression and Substance Abuse Statistics

Drugs and Depression - Young woman sitting on the floor with her legs pulled up and her knees into her chest crying. Her left hand his up on her forehead while her right hand is holding her right foot. Her eyes are dark with smeared eye shadow like she has been crying for an extended period of time.As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people with mood disorders, such as depression, have high rates of drug abuse. Roughly a third of people who are clinically depressed abuse drugs or alcohol, as per Current Opinion in Psychiatry.

In fact, it is so prevalent that experts have created a term for it: co-occurring disorders. Sometimes called dual disorders or dual diagnosis, this refers to people with substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders. Almost 8 million Americans battled a mental health disorder, such as depression, and substance abuse disorder in 2014 alone, cites the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA).

But, while depression and substance abuse statistics are cut and dry, what is less clear is which one comes first, much like the chicken and the egg issue. Is it a case of illegal drugs causing depression or vice versa?

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Do Illegal Drugs Cause Depression?

Drugs can lead to chemical changes in the brain. When these illegal substances are used for an extended period, it can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. This may occur because the brain produces, absorbs, or transmits less dopamine.

The alterations can contribute to depression, although 2009 research asserts that attributing the entire cause of depression to a chemical imbalance is an oversimplification. Instead, it is likely that the changes to brain chemicals – whether too many or too few – interacts with many other factors, such as stressful life events and biological predisposition, to develop depression.

Medications Causing Depression

Some medications can also modify brain chemistry in the same way as illegal drugs. When taken for medical ailments, certain prescribed drugs can trigger sad feelings, as well as thoughts of hopelessness and discouragement. WebMD lists drugs that cause depression in some people:

  • Cyclosporine
  • Lioresal
  • Synthroid
  • Chantix
  • Zovirax
  • All antidepressants
  • Some antibiotics
  • Barbiturates
  • Opioids
  • Statins

Which Happens First: The Relationship between Depression and Substance Abuse

For some people, drug abuse comes first, as described above, while for others it is depression that initially develops. Let’s focus next on depression occurring before substance abuse.

A person with depression, for example, may take drugs to escape their current reality or to lift their mood. This act of self-medicating can be a way to stave off feelings of unworthiness, guilt, and sadness that are all symptomatic of depression.

Also, drug abuse can wreak havoc on a user’s world, tearing up relationships, careers, and other areas of their life. Dwelling on the issues brought on by addiction has the potential to intensify negative thoughts and, in turn, intensify depression.

Another scenario that can occur is that a person has a depressive episode when the effects of drugs wear off. This can lead a person to increase the dosage of the drugs to feel better and lead to addiction or dependence.

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Depression and Addiction Recovery

Cohesive treatment that focuses on the relationship between depression and substance abuse is typically the ideal plan. Dual diagnosis rehabs address the person’s specific needs on a case-by-case basis, as every person is unique. Highly skilled professionals address both the mental illness and drug addiction knowing that only treating one of them can leave someone vulnerable to relapse.

Within a rehabilitation center, experts can map out a treatment strategy to simultaneously care for both the substance use disorder and depression. Medications may be given to treat the depression, and therapy and support groups are usually integral to an effective rehab plan, with the specific types depending on the individual. These are all evidence-based treatments, meaning they are proven to be effective through scientific research and, therefore, endorsed by organizations such as SAMHSA.

Depression after Quitting Drugs

Upon entering treatment, a person’s routine comes to a standstill, which can intensify feelings of anxiety and even depression. While these feelings may not be new, they can surprise someone who no longer is taking drugs to help evade the feelings of sadness. A depressed state can happen too if they miss their former drug of choice. Personal shame may accompany the depression.

The risk of relapse is particularly high in dual diagnosis situations, as there is the temptation to resume illegal drug consumption as a way to self-medicate to lessen the depression. This is why depression and addiction recovery must go hand in hand at rehabilitation facilities for sobriety to extend long-term.

Lastly, a feeling of self-worth is integral to long-term recovery. While the support of a close network that typically includes family and friends is key to addiction recovery, their words are an external reinforcement, and if their praises dissipate over time, then depression can creep back in. Instead, self-worthiness must stem from within a person. Individual and group therapy at quality rehab centers can help people in recovery with emotion management and be truthful with themselves.

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While recovery is not a quick solution, it has the potential to be a long-term one. Several treatment options are available now. Get started on your recovery today. If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse Find Addiction Rehabs is here to help. Call anytime 7 days a week 24 hours a day.