Depression And Substance Abuse


Depression and substance abuse go hand in hand. In the past decade alone, people seeking treatment for depression has nearly doubled. Studies indicate that alcohol use lowers serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Unhealthy levels of these chemicals are the cause of depression. Alcohol, which is already a depressant, compounds depression and thoughts of suicide.

Many people who are depressed turn to drugs and alcohol as an escape from their ongoing despair. What they do not realize is that they only escape temporarily and in time, their depression tends to worsen.

Depression can have many physiological effects on the body including fatigue, insomnia, feelings of helplessness and despair. Combining depression with drugs and alcohol is a deadly combination. Even though depressed people experience a state of euphoria while taking these substances, it is ultimately the worst move a depressed person can make. Since alcohol and drugs tend to cloud judgment, they also promote aggressive behavior and can make feelings of suicide become a realization.

Depression alone is difficult to deal with. Adding the use of drugs and alcohol can be devastating on marriages, jobs and other social factors. Chronic absenteeism from work and the inability to keep a job can add to one’s depressed state. They can also cause physical problems such as liver disease, stomach disorders, and physical pain. Drugs and alcohol can activate the mental illness gene.

Therefore, if someone is not suffering from depression but does drugs or consumes large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, it can trigger this gene and lead to depression or other forms of mental illness. It is often difficult for psychiatrists to determine which one came first. There are very few substance abuse centers that treat depression along with substance abuse making it even harder to recover fully. It is estimated that addicts will relapse seven times before make a full recovery.

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Psychologists debate whether depression tends to lead to alcoholism and drug use or if drug use and alcoholism cause one to be depressed. There is one certainty however, drug use and alcoholism make depression worse. Finding substance abuse centers that treat both issues is difficult, but not impossible. Therapists are starting to realize that both issues must be treated simultaneously, not independently as in the past.

It is common that a medical doctor diagnoses someone with depression and prescribes mental health drugs. This is a scary thought considering that the combination of alcohol or other drugs with the mental health medication render them virtually useless. Therefore, it is imperative to seek professional help from a licensed psychologist who can then make referrals to psychiatrists. Having a form of support is vital to a full recovery and getting the necessary help can help one move on to live a happy, fulfilled life without the use of substances.

“Depression can seem worse than terminal cancer, because most cancer patients feel loved and they have hope and self-esteem”. David D. Burns

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