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How Depression and Substance Abuse Are Linked

How Depression and Substance Abuse Are Linked

Many people diagnosed with clinical depression drink. Many people who drink heavily also develop depression. We call this a bidirectional occurrence.

The two diseases co-occur in many individuals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the neurological disease, clinical depression affects about 10 percent of the American population.

Not all of those who have clinical depression undergo treatment. They may go undiagnosed and untreated. They often self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research reports that in the US, people diagnosed with a mental illness drink 69 percent of the alcohol and consumer 84 percent of the cocaine.

Depression: Gateway to Addiction

While the two diseases of substance abuse and depression co-occur, untreated depression can lead to developing an addiction. The self-medication process only deepens the problem though. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It actually triggers the depression symptoms of hopelessness, lethargy, and sadness. While they expect it to numb the pain or provide temporary happiness, it serves to worsen their existing symptoms.

Recognizing Depression

Not everyone with depression curls up in a ball on the couch. It just is not that obvious. Many people with clinical depression walk through life seeming perfectly functional. They may be quite successful. Read the following list of symptoms. If you feel or experience five or more of these symptoms during each day, then you should seek treatment for depression:

  • anxiety,
  • experiencing otherwise unexplainable ache and pains,
  • feelings of guilt or hopelessness,
  • feeling worthless,
  • general irritability,
  • having a hard time concentrating on daily tasks,
  • loss of appetite/weight loss or an increase in appetite/weight gain,
  • loss of energy/lethargy,
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies you once loved,
  • sleeping too little or too much,
  • suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts,
  • tearfulness.

Recognizing Alcoholism or Other Substance Abuse

Since it goes both ways, you may notice the signs of alcoholism or other substance abuse first. There are four main signs to look for as a sign of a developing substance abuse problem – tolerance, withdrawal, remorse following use and relapse when you attempt to stop using.

Tolerance refers to your body acclimating to the drug, thus developing a need for larger quantities to achieve the same high or numbing affect. When you cannot consume the drug, for example at work, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, cold sweats, nausea, nervousness or tremors, also called DTs or deets. You feel guilt, remorse or sadness after consuming the drug. Though the high makes you very temporarily feel better, once you come down, you feel the remorse. You may try to stop on your own. If it leads to relapse, meaning you go back to using once withdrawal symptoms or cravings kick in, you have developed an addiction.

Seeking Treatment

Rather than turning to alcohol in an attempt to boost mood or escape negative feelings, turn to treatment instead. You can successfully treat depression with therapy and medication. You can also successfully treat substance abuse with rehabilitation and therapy.

While the diseases often co-occur, so does treatment. You can obtain treatment at a center that address both the depression or other underlying neurological or mental disease and the substance abuse problem. These centers treat both the underlying cause and the alcoholism or drug abuse with substance deprivation, counseling, appropriate prescription medication and various one-on-one and group therapy sessions.

You can beat the co-occurring diseases of addiction and depression. A dual diagnosis requires dual treatment. You stand the best chance of getting a handle on both your addiction and your depression by checking into a rehab facility that treats both at the same time.