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The Connection Between Depression and Substance Abuse
Many depressed people turn to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to alleviate their condition. In fact, it has been estimated that 21% of people who suffer from depression abuse, or have abused at least one substance. This ratio is nearly three times higher than people who are not clinically depressed. Substance abuse can also lead to depression, and in some cases, both can be triggered simultaneously due to a particular issue in someone’s life.
The basis of drug addiction is self-medication. There is some mental or emotional void that needs to be filled, or there are feelings that someone wishes to be rid of. Diagnosis can be a drawn-out process and the individual may not feel affected by the medications they are prescribed. Instead, they turn to alcohol. Some people do not know this, but alcohol is a depressant. Television and movies often portray the lighter side of drinking. They portray parties with individuals who drink just enough to gain a certain level of courage. However, once someone has started drinking, it is often difficult to stop. A large enough dose of alcohol will intensify depression. Feeling more depressed, someone who drinks regularly, especially in excess, will often resort to using other drugs in addition to the alcohol to alleviate their emotional anguish. The combination of alcohol and certain other drugs can be hallucinogenic which can be detrimental to the brain. It can also intensify the depression even further which can lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Where do these issues come from and why are they so interrelated? Researchers have found that both substance abuse and depression produce the same chemical response. Both are in the region of the brain that handles stress responses. Therefore, when stressed from depression, the automatic response can be substance abuse and vice versa. The predisposition is often sparked by events in a person’s life of extreme stress or emotional trauma. Giving in to peer pressure as a teen can be the start of a life of drug use and abuse. Finally, substance abuse and depression can both result from brain injury or irregular brain development. While oftentimes these issues happen by pure chance or accident, there are instances where they are fully preventable. Drug use can damage the brain permanently, stimulating drug dependency and depression. The most effective precautionary measure someone can take is to never even try using drugs.
A person with combined drug addiction and diagnosed depression can fight their conditions on their own, but the success rates are far from promising. When under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, a person is not in their right state of mind. Therefore it is necessary to remove the drugs from the equation before addressing the depression. The first step is detoxification, or as it is commonly called, detox. It helps an individual manage withdrawal symptoms when deprived of their drug of choice. The withdrawal phase is the reason most people who attempt to stop on their own fail. Detox is designed to get patients through this troubling experience so that the recovery process can start.
Following the detox is a phase known as dual treatment. Since every individual has a unique personality and reacts to different stimuli, this process is specifically designed for each individual case. Common treatment items include therapy, possibly medication and social support groups. In some cases, medication is seen as counter-productive because it is merely a replacement for the drug that was being abused and the effects of the depression recovery are most beneficial when they create a sober individual who does not need any substance in their body to feel okay. To make it through dual treatment, a patient needs to be motivated. While support groups can help someone find this motive, it is ultimately up to the individual to drive themselves. A person who does not want to be drug free or cure their depression will not meet a successful recovery.