The Link between Substance Abuse and Depression

Written by Chloe Nicosia

If you’re dual diagnosed and have issues with substance abuse and depression, read more.

Many people who seek substance abuse treatment (and many who don’t) also suffer from mental health disorders, including depression. Depression is a medical condition where a person experiences intense feelings of sadness, physical pains, and loss of interest in activities a person once enjoyed doing due to their condition. Those with severe depression may even have thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide. Needless to say, substance abuse and depression can be a very harmful combination.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated one in six people will experience depression in their lifetimes. Of those that do have a problem with depression, a significant percentage also struggle with substance abuse. Fortunately, there is help for those who can experience depression and addiction recovery.

Addiction and Depression Facts

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 20 percent of Americans with a mood disorder, such as depression, are likely to have an alcohol or substance abuse disorder. Other addiction and depression facts include that an estimated 20 percent of people with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder also suffer from an anxiety and/or mood disorder.

The cause-and-effect relationship between addiction and depression can vary. For example, in some people, a person may experience depression. They can turn to substance abuse, such as drug or alcohol abuse as a means to self-medicate or treat their depression. However, substance abuse does not treat depression. Instead, it just temporarily masks the symptoms. When the drug wears off, a person will usually experience their depressive feelings again as well as the withdrawal symptoms associated with substance abuse.

Other people may start to abuse alcohol or a particular drug first. They may not have had a problem with depression or anxiety initially, but may start to develop the symptoms as a result of withdrawals. Substance abuse and often the withdrawals associated with substance abuse often can worsen feeling of depression, such as hopelessness or strong anxiety.

Researchers have identified some risk factors that can increase the likelihood a person will experience substance abuse and depression. These include:

  • Family history: A person with a family history of addiction, depression, or both is more likely to have both conditions.
  • A person who is highly sensitive to alcohol or drugs: A person may be highly sensitive to the effects of substance abuse. They may experience a heightened sense of depression when they are drinking or abusing drugs.
  • Medical history: Those with several chronic health conditions or who have a history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be more likely to experience an incidence of substance abuse and depression. Also, those of lower socioeconomic statuses are more likely to suffer from addiction and depression.

These are just some of the risk factors associated with the condition. If a person has these risk factors, it does not guarantee they will have the condition. Also, many people who do not meet these risk factors can suffer from both disorders.

Professional Help for Those in Recovery

Experiencing both depression as well as substance abuse problem is known as a dual diagnosis. Traditionally, substance abuse and depression are more difficult to treat. However, a program that focuses specifically on treating both can offer a person greater success in overcoming both their substance abuse and mental health disorder. Treatment for dual diagnosis can include personalized counseling, medication management, and group therapies. These therapies can help a person experience a greater sense of well-being and reduction of their depressive symptoms.

To learn more about help for those who struggle with substance abuse and depression, please call Better Addiction Care at 1.800.429.7690.