Comorbidity of depression and substance abuse detrimental to health

Comorbidity of depression and substance abuse detrimental to health

“Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem.” ― Kurt Cobain

The close relationship between mental disorders and substance abuse is like the proverbial “elephant in the living room” as no one wants to discuss such an uncomfortable issue. However, the co-occurrence of mental disorders and substance abuse heralds a number of challenges in a person’s life. Occasional low periods usually pass away smoothly, but when such emotionally gloomy phases persist for long then one is likely to be suffering from depression of other types of mental disorders. With millions of people grappling the challenges of depression, which keeps them away from living a normal and happy life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 7.6 percent of Americans in the age group 12 and above were suffering from this psychiatric disorder in the period 2009 to 2012.

Clinical depression is a serious mental disability with severe consequences for the individual and his or her loved ones. Besides suppressing the immune system and weakening the body, the reliance on addictive substances, such as drugs or alcohol, for alleviating pain and other symptoms increases mental health problems exponentially. Due to the increased proclivity toward substances, people going through depression stand an increased chance of developing substance abuse.

Depression can trigger substance abuse and vice versa

Depression and substance abuse intertwine at several levels. Depression can trigger drug or alcohol use as a form of self-medication or as an escape route from negative emotions that in turn alter the brain chemistry. The effects of substance abuse or withdrawal from substances can accentuate the signs of a depressive disorder.

The co-occurrence of depression and recreational drug use is quite common among people. Often, there is an interaction between the two in several forms. On the one hand, both the disorders are responsible for triggering the symptoms of the respective disorders. On the other hand, both the problems can occur together purely by chance.

Being highly addictive in nature, drugs or alcohol can precipitate depression by altering brain chemistry. Heavy drug use may lead to major financial problems, difficulties in relationships and trouble with the law that may further push a person to depression. Since some of the psychiatric illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and phobias, are accompanied by depressive symptoms, drug use is very common in such cases.

It can be difficult for even experienced clinicians to differentiate between the symptoms arising due to clinical depression or substance abuse. Since most of the widely abused substances are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, etc., it is essential to avoid such substances in all circumstances.

Mood disorders like depression can occur when the psychological effects of substances or withdrawal from these substances cause abnormal emotional states. The withdrawal from cocaine, meth and other stimulants cause changes in brain chemistry that can lead to severe depression. Depression can also occur due to the withdrawal from heroin and other opium-based drugs.

Fatigue, poor appetite, lack of concentration, tearfulness and suicidal tendencies are some of the symptoms of substance-induced depression that resemble to those of major depressive disorder (MDD). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the symptoms of substance-induced depression resolve within a matter of days after the drug is cleared from the patient’s system. However, the symptoms tend to get worse due to the lack of diagnosis of depression.

Road to recovery

Considering the above facts, it is very important for a person trying to get clean and sober from substance abuse to get his or her clinical depression diagnosed as the treatment process will vary accordingly. If depression is treated in a mental health setting without addressing the problem of substance abuse, the patient may never be weaned away from the substance abuse problem and depressive symptoms may remain unresolved.

If you or your loved one is suffering from such a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, contact the Dual Diagnosis Helpline. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-981-6047 or chat online with our experts to get details about the finest dual diagnosis centers. They will help you find the best dual diagnosis rehabs where such problems are managed through holistic treatment plans.