The Link Between Depression and Addiction

Depression and addiction are two interconnected mental health conditions that often co-occur. Depression is a mental illness that affects millions of people worldwide, and it frequently accompanies substance use disorders. This comorbidity is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. It’s widely accepted that there is a link between mental health issues and substance abuse. The U.S Department of Health states that at least half of all people with a substance use disorder also suffer from a mental health condition, such as depression. According to Psycom people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in life consume 69% of America’s alcohol and 84% of the nation’s cocaine.

Depression and substance abuse are often bi-directional. In other words, how they impact each other can be like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg.  People who are depressed may drink or abuse drugs as a coping mechanism, and in turn, the negative consequences of substance abuse will increase their depression. 

alcohol use disorder

The Interplay Between Depression and Addiction:

  1. Self-Medication: Individuals with depression may use substances to alleviate their symptoms, such as feelings of sadness, lethargy, and low self-esteem. This self-medication can initially provide temporary relief but ultimately worsens the depression and leads to addiction.
  2. Vicious Cycle: The relationship between depression and addiction is often cyclical. Depression can lead to substance abuse, which in turn exacerbates depression symptoms. This vicious cycle can be challenging to break without proper treatment.
  3. Risk Factors: Both depression and addiction have various risk factors, including genetic predisposition, traumatic childhood experiences, family history of mental illness or substance use, and environmental factors such as stress and social pressures.

The Problem With Self Medication:

Although certain drugs may temporarily relieve a person’s mental health symptoms, they are sure to worsen them in the long run. Since alcohol and drugs release feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, the short term effects will mask unpleasant emotions and release feelings of euphoria. However, this will further disrupt the brain chemicals in someone who is depressed, making their symptoms more severe. This leads to an increased dependence on the substance, and so the vicious cycle continues.

Dual-diagnosis, Treatment and Relapse:

When a substance abuse disorder is accompanied by a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. In this case, comprehensive treatment for both conditions is usually the best course of action. Because it can be challenging to make an accurate diagnosis due to overlapping symptoms, a period of sobriety may be required before an accurate diagnosis can be made. However, abstaining from substance abuse when it has served as a way of coping with depression, can lead to the depression worsening, and an increased risk of relapse. 

Relapse is a three-part process, the first stage of which is known as emotional relapse. This stage is usually a resurfacing of uncomfortable emotions and begins before the person has actively started to consider using again. For those with underlying depression, it is almost certain that this will occur, sabotaging any attempt at abstinence.

This is why it is important to treat both conditions simultaneously. It also is essential that treatment, which often includes behavioural therapies, be tailored to the individual’s specific combination of disorders and symptoms. This means that an addiction professional needs to take into account the person’s age, the length of time that the condition has been ongoing, the misused substance, and the specific mental disorder.If you have an active SUD or a history of misuse, it may be worthwhile to consider that you could be suffering from undiagnosed depression. Reach out to a professional addiction counsellor, who can help generate the greatest odds for long-term recovery through an individualised treatment program.

Recovery852  assists individuals and families struggling with addiction and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Recovery852 offers non-emergency outpatient services to people affected by substance misuse. With over fifteen years of experience and over 3,000 hours of clinical experience working in addiction recovery we offer personal, tailor-made outpatient treatment programs with an emphasis on shifting from a life of chaos, conflict, and crisis to recovery and wellness. Contact us today.