Depression and Substance Abuse: Are They Linked?
Depression and substance abuse affects people of different ages and backgrounds. Although these problems can get severe, many patients have experienced recovery from these illnesses. The two conditions, drug addiction and depression, can influence patients’ thoughts, emotions, behavior, and decision-making and may cause a rift in a relationship.
SAMHSA’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that roughly 9.2 million American adults are coping with mental health issues and substance use disorders. This article seeks to find out if there is a link between depression and substance abuse.
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What Is Depression and Substance Abuse?
Depression is a mental health disorder that causes people to feel sad, hopeless, worthless, experience unreasonable guilt and anger, be anxious, agitated, and even think about killing themselves. People with depression are likely to engage in risky activities like smoking, drinking, and using drugs.
On the other hand, substance abuse is the overconsumption of any substance that changes brain function. Medications, such as prescription and over-the-counter drugs, can also fall into this category if a person becomes dependent on them.
How Does Depression Lead to Substance Abuse?
According to the WHO, more than 300 million people worldwide have depression. Many elements contribute to the development of depression, including:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental aspects
- Stressful or traumatic events
- Social and financial problems
- Alcohol and drugs
However, substance addiction disorders are more likely to occur in depressed people. Comorbidity is widespread among the adult and adolescent population with substance use disorders. People suffering from untreated mental health illnesses may turn to substance addiction to self-medicate against the unpleasant symptoms.
How Does Substance Abuse Cause Depression?
Substance abuse alters the brain’s chemical makeup. Consequently, the neurotransmitters, hormones, and other chemicals in the body and brain fluctuate. These chemical imbalances and changes cause depression.
As substance addiction continues, the brain adapts to the chemical alterations. The brain becomes dependent on drugs and alcohol to regulate feelings over time. Such people require drugs or alcohol to feel peaceful or happy. If used unchecked, substances like alcohol or narcotics may cause permanent damage to a person’s brain.
Risk Factors of Depression and Substance Abuse
Some of the risk factors for depression and substance abuse include:
- Unresolved grief
- Family history and genetics
- Chronic stress
- Environmental issues
- Social factors
Signs and Symptoms of Depression and Substance Abuse
These are some of the general signs that present in someone with depression and engaging in substance abuse:
Depression can change how a person thinks, lowering their concentration, causing difficulty remembering, weakened decision-making, and difficulty focusing.
Difficulty controlling emotions
Depression can affect a person’s ability to keep their emotions in check, which can lead someone to social isolation, hopelessness, and other mental health issues. Drugs and alcohol may have the same effect. Depression and addiction can make it harder to control one’s feelings.
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Sudden disinterest in hobbies
Depression shuts off some of the brain’s pleasure pathways. In times of happiness, depression can make it harder to maintain that positive feeling. When abusing drugs or alcohol, people may care less about the things and people they once liked too. Interest will wane if the brain equates addictive substances with happiness and pleasure.
Adjustments in eating practices
Depressed people may lose interest in food or be too tired to cook or eat. Others cope with melancholy and worthlessness through emotional eating, which is not always related to appetite. Drugs and alcohol, too, can alter appetite.
Depression and Alcohol Abuse: Statistics
The following is a list of statistics about addiction and depression facts:
- According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20% of Americans with anxiety or mental illness like depression have substance abuse issues.
- An estimated one-third of those who suffer from severe depression also have alcohol problems.
- 17.6% of suicides are linked to substance misuse, while 30.2% are linked to depression.
- 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug abusers also suffer from at least one major mental disease.
- About 50% of people with severe mental disorders also abuse drugs.
- Substance abuse costs the U.S. economy over $600 billion annually in lost work time and criminal activities.
Diagnosis and Treatment
People with depression frequently feel isolated, profoundly lonely, and helpless. A depressed person’s perspective on the future could significantly change by providing support, practical resources, services, and a plan to manage the issues.
Both depression and substance abuse are treatable disorders. Many treatment options are available, including medication, therapy, counseling, and group sessions. Patients with dual-diagnosis of substance abuse and depression may benefit from concurrent treatment of both conditions.
Depression brought on by substance usage may resolve if the patient manages the drug problem. Studies have also proved that counseling and other forms of behavioral assistance increase the efficacy of medicine for several conditions.
Some of the commonly used methods in the treatment of substance abuse and depression are:
- Behavioral Therapy. They include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the most common behavioral therapy techniques. CBT is a talk therapy service where the mental health expert helps one to deal with issues by teaching individuals new coping strategies for complex and irrational ideas and existing behaviors.
- Medical Treatment. A psychiatrist can prescribe the patient antidepressants to help in treating depression. Doctors can also prescribe specific medications for substance use disorders to help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Individual or group therapy. It is crucial to address the patient’s problems and place them in groups of people with similar symptoms or experiences who could teach them tactics for coping with depression or drug addiction.
- Residential and inpatient. Treating and sending the patient home may not be sufficient as they may need closer attention, such as in the case of substance abuse. In that scenario, placing them in residential or inpatient treatment centers would be prudent.
The correlation between addiction and depression is easy to find. Nearly half of substance abuse victims also struggle with mental health disorders like depression. Similarly, more than 30% of those with depression suffer from alcohol abuse. That said, although there is a link between the two, none of them is automatically a cause of the other. To better know the reasons for your symptom’s occurrence and identify the ways to manage your condition, consult with a board-certified professional at Mango Clinic.