Addiction & Depression

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The Relationship Between Addiction & Depression

As of 2019 in the United States 9.5 million adults struggle with substance use disorder as well as a mental health disorder. When a person struggles with both, they begin to wonder if there’s a relationship between the two.

It might seem unlikely because most people view depression as a mental illness and addiction as a character flaw or lack of willpower. However, the causes of addiction are rooted in more than a person’s character or inner strength. In fact, some people argue that addiction and depression can go hand-in-hand, and it seems like there might be a cycle of depression and periods of substance abuse or addiction.

What is Depression?

People feel sad or down at times, but depression is a chronic sadness that is much worse than a typical sad day. Depression is a serious mental illness where feelings of sadness affect the person’s health, daily life, and work.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 20 percent or 50 million adults in the United States experience severe depression while a little over 15 percent of older children experience it. Nearly a third of these cases will turn to drug or alcohol abuse as a way of self-medicating.

This addiction begins as part of the person’s desire to feel better. For the person suffering from depression, it becomes easy or in their view, necessary to use a substance or take part in some other form of addiction.

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What is Addiction?

Addiction is a mental illness that can be treated. The causes range from genetics and trauma history to circuits in the brain and environment. A person struggling with addiction feels a compulsive need to use the substance or perform the act that they’re addicted to doing.

In the case of depression and addiction, the addiction is typically some form of substance abuse, such as alcohol, stimulants, prescription painkillers, or other drugs. When a person is addicted to a substance, it’s more than a casual usage and is instead a chronic urge and dependence.

The use of the substance is compulsive, and the person who struggles with addiction can’t stop using their substance of choice without help. This substance abuse affects every area of their lives from relationships to work and school.

The Cycle of Depression & Self-Medication

Unfortunately, if a person is suffering from depression and using substances to make themselves better, they’re creating a vicious cycle. The abuse of substances makes the periods of depression worse and can cause them to occur more often.

In order to know if the person is self-medicating, they could ask themselves these five questions:

  1. Has the person tried to stop using the substance and not be able to stop?
  2. Does the person ever have a craving for the substance?
  3. Does the person use the substance to alter their mood?
  4. Does the person’s use of the substance create problems in their personal or business life?
  5. Does the person need more of their desired substance now than they did when they first started using it to feel the same way?

A person who sees themselves reflected in these questions can seek treatment for both depression and addiction. It is possible to break this cycle with the help of a mental health professional.

Stimulants & Depression

Although many stimulants aren’t available legally, such as cocaine, some people struggling with depression will use these substances for the brief buzz of happiness. Stimulants can provide a euphoric happy feeling, but someone with depression will feel the comedown more severely.

The depression can drive the person to continually increase the dosage of the stimulant to return to that place of euphoria. This can create a cycle of alternating between depression and addiction. Some most commonly abused stimulants include:

Amphetamines

MDMA

Methamphetamines

Synthetic stimulants

Cocaine

Prescription stimulants, such as those used to treat children with ADHD

Stimulants can change the neurochemistry in the user’s brain, and this can increase issues with depression. The neurotransmitters believed to be related to depression are norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. When a person uses a stimulant, these neurotransmitters are affected and therefore can cause depression symptoms to worsen.

Marijuana & Depression

Each year, the number of states, that have legalized the use and sales of marijuana, increases. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of all Americans have tried marijuana at some point, and a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use.

People who struggle with depression are finding it easier than ever to gain access to marijuana, and they can begin to abuse the substance to offset their feelings of depression. While the person might initially gain some relief from their depression symptom, it is possible to also reap negative side effects.

The use of marijuana can have an effect on a person’s moods, cognitive function, motor control, and more. Researchers are studying the possibility that the abuse of marijuana can create mood disorders in the users.

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Alcohol & Depression

When it comes to concurrent mental health issues, the abuse of alcohol and depression are the most common. In most places, alcohol is readily available and considered socially acceptable. Alcohol is classified as a depressant, and its use by a person facing depression can only worsen the condition.

Many people create routines that include the use of alcohol, such as getting a drink with coworkers after a long day or toasting a joyous occasion with champagne or beer. This routine can make it much easier for a person struggling with depression to slip into the pattern of abusing alcohol.

Researchers have found a strong correlation between depression and other mood disorders and people who drink heavily. Almost a third of individuals who abuse alcohol also struggle with some sort of concurrent mental health issue, such as depression.

Treatment for People with Depression & Addiction

If a person suffers from both depression and addiction, it’s possible for a mental health professional to treat both issues at the same time, especially because of their linked cycle. At Healthy Life Recovery in San Diego, a person can find a team of mental health professionals they need to overcome addiction and depression.

The recovery programs are able to address both substance abuse and depression by developing an individualized treatment plan. Treating both disorders at the same time gives each person their best chance at recovery and the chance to reclaim their life.

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