Substance dependency and depression are very common comorbid disorders – the National Institute of Health recently reported that nearly one-third of individuals who had been diagnosed with depression simultaneously suffered from a substance abuse or dependency disorder at some point in their lives. The National Comorbidity Study found that men who suffered from alcohol dependence had rates of depression three times higher than members of the general population. Clearly, a relationship exists between the two disorders. But what does such a relationship entail?
A study conducted at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shows that clients who suffer from both depression and substance dependency are at a much higher risk of relapse, poor adherence to treatment plans, and eventual re-hospitalization. Studies such as this prove that in order for treatment to be successful long-term, both disorders must be treated adequately and simultaneously.
Addiction and Depression
Throughout the recovery world, a common saying has become a common misconception – alcohol and drug addiction can cause mental illness, but mental illness does not cause addiction. While there is some truth to this statement, a pre-existing, undiagnosed mental disorder can absolutely play a large role in the eventual development of addiction. The truth lies in the fact that an array of contributing factors, such as genetic predisposition and upbringing, typically work together to create the perfect recipe for substance abuse. However, some mental illnesses (especially those that are difficult to diagnose and thus remain untreated) may lead to the excessive use of alcohol and drugs. Depressive disorders are known to cause a wide array of acutely uncomfortable feelings, such as hopelessness, physical exhaustion, intense loneliness, and emotionally overwhelming, unrelenting sadness.
Self-Medication – The Root of Addiction
If those suffering at the hands of such agonizing symptoms are not being properly treated (medically and therapeutically), it may be tempting to self-medicate. While self-medication with alcohol and other chemical compounds may provide temporary relief, the backlash that occurs when the chemicals leave the body can compound the depression and make it far, far worse. This is known as ‘withdrawal depression’, and this phenomenon is known to trigger the use of a greater amount of chemical substance on a continuous basis, eventually leading to physical and mental dependency. Additionally, if an individual is being pharmaceutically treated for professionally diagnosed depression, it is likely that his or her medication will be rendered ineffective with the regular use of chemical substance. In other words, what begins as self-medication may turn into a dependency, and even if the afflicted individual is treated for depression further down the line, treatment may be harshly compromised by the unresolved addiction.
Treatment of Dual Diagnosis Disorders
As previously mentioned, in order for the treatment of either disorder to render truly effective, must disorders must be treated at the same time. If continuous chemical abuse leads to symptoms of depression, adequately treating the substance abuse disorder will likely wipe out both issues – as the internal body begins regulating, neurological damage will eventually be reversed, and the afflicted individual will notice symptoms of depression improving over time. However, until brain chemistry has thoroughly balanced out, it may be necessary that the individual remain on non-narcotic medication. And if the depressive disorder is found to be a contributing factor to substance dependency, long-term medication therapy will likely be a necessity. It is not uncommon for those who struggle with addiction issues to be apprehensive towards taking any medication – even one that is professionally approved and deemed medically mandatory.
We at Next Chapter have extensive experience treating men with co-occurring depression and addiction, and understand that in order for long-term sobriety to be maintained, must conditions must be treated effectively and concurrently. For more information on depression and addiction, please feel free to contact us today.