Links Between Depression and Substance Abuse
Understanding How Depression and Substance Abuse Can Be Related
Depression and substance abuse can occur together, creating unique challenges for those affected.
Substance abuse, or drug abuse, is a pattern of using a substance that causes significant problems or distress. This can involve the persistent use of drugs, including alcohol, despite experiencing severe physical or psychological harm. Substance abuse includes the use of prescription drugs in ways other than those prescribed by a doctor, such as getting high.
Depression is a common mental health disorder marked by a persistent low mood, loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities, and a lack of motivation. This is often accompanied by feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, leading to recurring thoughts of death or suicide. Depression can have a negative impact on many aspects of an individual’s life, including sleep patterns and appetite.
The close connection between depression and substance abuse often creates a vicious cycle in which one condition makes the other worse. This situation can quickly result in deteriorating mental and physical health.
Imagine Lisa, a college student who regularly uses recreational drugs for perceived stress relief and social acceptance. As Lisa’s consumption pattern continues, her brain’s chemistry starts to change, leading to mood disturbances, low energy and appetite, and feelings of worthlessness — all hallmarks of depression. Lisa’s drug abuse has contributed to poorer mental health.
Now consider John, a middle-aged professional struggling with untreated depression. John feels a persistent lack of interest in activities he once enjoyed and pervasive sadness. To cope with these feelings, John uses alcohol as a form of self-medication. The temporary relief provided by alcohol lures him into a pattern of regular and increasing consumption. Over time, John’s depressive state has evolved into a substance abuse problem.
It’s important to understand that substance abuse does not cure depression; it only masks the symptoms. In reality, substance abuse can rapidly escalate into dependence and force the user to rely on drugs to function normally. This addiction can cause existing symptoms to worsen, leading to a state of severe depression.
According to the World Health Organization, depression affects an estimated 1 in 10 Americans, and less than 50% of those suffering from depression on a global scale receive the care they need. For various reasons, including lack of access to treatment facilities, many individuals struggling with depression resort to drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms.
Dual-diagnosis treatment is a specialized treatment approach designed to resolve co-occurring disorders. The core of dual-diagnosis treatment is to acknowledge and address the unique struggles each person faces when there is a combination of disorders. This approach rejects a one-size-fits-all mentality when treating patients and personalizes each treatment plan instead.
Addressing substance abuse without treating co-occurring mental disorders often leads to ineffective recovery. Underlying mental disorders can cause the individual to relapse and cope via even greater substance abuse. Similarly, treating mental health issues without curbing substance abuse rarely results in long-term physical and mental recovery.
By treating both mental disorders and substance abuse, dual-diagnosis programs help people with co-occurring disorders break their cycles of addiction.
Is There a Link Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse?
Researchers have well-documented the connection between mental health problems and substance abuse. The relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is reciprocal; the presence of one can cause symptoms of the other in those who previously had no diagnosis.
Depression is only one of many mental illnesses that can contribute to or result from substance abuse. People with substance abuse disorders often struggle with other mental health issues, such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
People with mental health conditions can develop substance abuse or dependency as a way of coping with their condition or to relieve symptoms. For example, an anxious person might take drugs to calm their nerves and feel better temporarily. A person with bipolar disorder might use drugs to magnify the highs of mania and soften the lows of depression.
Substance abuse and mental disorders share common risk factors. A person’s genetic makeup may increase the risk of developing both types of disorders. For this reason, modifying gene expression may be a promising tool for treating a wide range of disorders.
Environment also plays a major role and includes influences such as chronic stress, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences. Fortunately, these factors can be modified more easily than genes. In individuals with latent genetic vulnerabilities, constant exposure to stress or traumatic events may trigger depression and other mental disorders.
Interventions for co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders must address the underlying causes of these conditions while also treating symptoms.
The Cycle of Self-Medication
Self-medication is the practice of using drugs or alcohol to treat emotional distress without consulting a professional. Although substances such as alcohol and drugs may provide temporary relief, they can lead to chronic dependency and other problems.
People who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses often experience periods of intense personal distress, and they may self-medicate with substances as a way of coping. However, the immediate effects are often short-lived and can do more harm than good.
The key to understanding why self-medication often leads to addiction is the change occurring in a user’s brain. When addictive substances are used repeatedly, the brain becomes dependent on them to perform normally and counterbalance withdrawal symptoms. Over time, with increased tolerance, that person typically requires more of the substance to experience a similar (or even smaller) level of relief.
Self-medicating behaviors often border on drug abuse, a stage characterized by the use of substances that further exacerbates an individual’s mental health symptoms. If the individual keeps repeating the cycle of stopping and starting their addiction, it can eventually lead to a persistent substance abuse problem.
Achieving sustainable recovery from addiction often involves more than just discontinuing substance use. It requires an empathetic approach that considers mental health issues and tailors treatment to match.
There are several evidence-based approaches to treatment:
- Individual therapy: Finding a therapist who specializes in addiction and mental health disorders can help individuals regain their emotional footing and understand what is happening as it happens.
- Support groups: Peer support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide an important emotional connection for their members that can help them overcome addictions. Similarly, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a good resource for people with depression and other mood disorders.
- Inpatient rehabilitation: People who are unresponsive to outpatient care often do better in a structured residential setting. Treatment programs include medical intervention and group therapy, as well as holistic healing through art, nutritional support, and mindfulness techniques.
At Beachway Therapy Center, our treatment program is guided by a team of dedicated clinicians who specialize in dual-diagnosis care. We equip individuals with essential insights, tools, and coping mechanisms to break the cycle of self-medication.
Seeking Treatment for Depression and Substance Abuse
People with depression and substance abuse problems often experience a combination of symptoms that can make their condition more difficult to treat. For this reason, it’s important to seek a treatment program that addresses both disorders simultaneously.
To get a person with co-occurring disorders to the point of living independently and happily, a multidimensional treatment plan is necessary. Attempting to address either substance abuse or depression in isolation may not fully address the root causes of the individual’s distress, which can lead to an incomplete recovery or even relapse.
Untreated depression symptoms can hinder substance abuse recovery because individuals may self-medicate their depression while trying to recover from addiction. Similarly, unaddressed substance abuse can hamper depression treatment because ongoing substance misuse can worsen depression symptoms and compound emotional distress.
The concept of dual-diagnosis acknowledges and addresses the complex interplay between mental health conditions and substance abuse. It involves coordinated, holistic treatment of both mental health and substance abuse issues in a way that provides individuals with the personal support, care, and tools needed for recovery.
Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Options
Depression and substance abuse can make someone feel hopeless, encouraging self-medication. Seeking professional help is an important step in resolving both issues, and dual-diagnosis treatment is a cornerstone of long-term recovery from co-occurring conditions. Using this approach, Beachway Therapy Center provides a range of compassionate services to people struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
Beachway’s inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center in Florida provides comprehensive care through traditional programs, as well as alternative holistic therapies. Our treatment options available to Florida residents include:
- Detoxification: Inpatient medical detox to help safely cope with withdrawal symptoms
- Inpatient/Residential: 24-hour supervision in a supportive environment, accompanied by individual and group counseling
- Outpatient/PHP: A more flexible treatment option that allows living at home while receiving the necessary support and therapy sessions
- Aftercare: Ongoing support to help maintain sobriety and adjust to life after treatment
For those living in New Jersey, Beachway’s outpatient rehab center is available. Located in Lawrence Township, this center is staffed by addiction specialists and offers flexible treatment options to meet diverse needs, including partial hospitalization and outpatient counseling programs. The rehab process usually involves an initial assessment, attending group and individual therapy sessions, and using holistic personal therapies.
Treating Depression and Substance Abuse at Beachway Therapy Center
Taking the first step toward professional help for depression and substance abuse can be challenging. With our expertise in treating co-occurring disorders, we offer specialized dual-diagnosis treatment focused on full recovery.
Our team personalizes treatment plans to address each patient’s individual needs. We make sure that addressing the core issues of both depression and substance abuse is a top priority.
Beachway Therapy Center offers inpatient treatment that provides a safe, controlled environment for detox and recovery. This approach is useful for people who need extra support to maintain their recovery over the long term. We also offer support programs for alumni to promote lifelong sobriety and emotional well-being.
For individuals unable to commit to inpatient treatment, Beachway offers intensive outpatient care. This program allows them to maintain their daily lives while receiving care and support, attending therapy sessions, and working on their recovery.
Another option at Beachway is partial hospitalization, which offers a balanced blend of inpatient and outpatient treatment benefits. This program allows individuals to remain in their own homes as they work through highly structured treatment plans.
At Beachway Therapy Center, we believe in treating the individual as a whole by addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In addition to traditional therapies, our treatment plans include practices such as art, music, and equine therapy. Our goal is to empower individuals by providing them with the skills and knowledge needed for lifelong recovery.
For more information on our dual-diagnosis programs and treatment options, contact our admissions helpline at 877-284-0353. Help for depression and substance abuse is just a call away.
Holistic Depression and Substance Abuse Treatment
Dealing with co-occurring disorders may be difficult, but compassionate support is available. If you or a loved one is seeking dual diagnosis treatment, Beachway Therapy Center can help. Contact us today to start your recovery journey.