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Understanding the correlation between substance abuse and depression 


It is a well-known fact that there is a strong connection between mental illness and substance abuse. When an individual suffers from both these conditions at the same time, it is commonly referred to as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. 

Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness that is often found to occur simultaneously with substance use. Please note that these two disorders are connected by a bi-directional relationship. This means that individuals that frequently abuse substances are more likely to get into a state of depressions, and vice-versa. It is often found that people suffering from depression get into substance abuse or drinking just to escape their feelings of despair or improve their mood. However, these substances are depressants, and can significantly increase the feeling of fatigue and sadness in them. 


Signs of Depression:
It has been observed that almost one-third of substance abusing adults also suffer from depression. Diagnosis of depression while actively using drugs can be quite difficult because the symptoms of drug use and depression are almost similar. Depending on the person, the nature of depression may appear to be different. Some persons may display easily recognizable signs such as low mood and fatigue. On the other hand, some others may appear to be angry and irritable. Some other common signs of depression may include   

  • Disturbance in sleep patterns 
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of despair and guilt
  • Severe lack of concentration
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of energy
  • Frequent mood swings

If not sure about whether they have a substance use disorder, individuals may ask the following questions to themselves. 

  • Do they use alcohol or drugs in large amounts or for longer durations?
  • Have they ever tried to quit or reduce the use of unsuccessfully?
  • Do they spend lots of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol or drugs?
  • Do they feel any craving for alcohol or drug?
  • Does their home, office, or social life get affected by drug abuse?
  • Would they continue substance use even if it jeopardizes their relationships?
  • Do they use alcohol or drugs in situations where this use can be physically hazardous?
  • Over a period of time, do they require a higher amount of the substance for creating the same effect?

Treatment Options: 
Fortunately, comprehensive treatment facilities are available for both depression and substance abuse. Depressive symptoms can be reduced to a great extent by antidepressants. Disorders resulting from the use of alcohol, opioid, and other substances can also be treated by certain medications. Recent studies have indicated that these medications are more effective in tandem with behavioral support and counseling for the individual. Often times, it is found that an intensive inpatient or outpatient treatment is required for curbing addiction as well as coping with depression in a healthy manner.  

While seeking treatment for depression and substance use, one may need immediate medical support to address the withdrawal symptoms. Also, it is better to opt for programs where the dual diagnosis can be addressed simultaneously. Most of the effective treatment programs comprise of individual counseling, individualized treatment plans, pharmacotherapy, family involvement, peer support, and follow-up support for the prevention of relapse.  

After being diagnosed with depression, one should immediately discuss about the risk of substance use with a doctor. It is also a good idea to monitor the alcohol intake and look for alternative strategies to deal with low mood and stress. Another excellent alternative would be to seek one of the comprehensive drug use and depression treatment options from Addiction Recovery Centre.


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