Depression is a common mental illness that affects people globally. It’s especially common in those battling an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, even though it may soothe a person’s depression in the short term, substance abuse will trigger and intensify feelings of sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness associated with depression in the long term.
According to WebMD, an estimated 33 percent of those with major depression also have an alcohol problem. It’s common for depression to come first and be followed by drinking to cope with these feelings. Research also found that depressed children are more likely to have problems with alcohol later in their lives. Teens who experienced major depression are twice as likely to start drinking than those who haven’t.
It’s common for people to experience highs and lows throughout their lives, but clinical depression can last for weeks, months, and in some cases, years. It causes significant issues in a person’s life, including their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle and work.
For a person who is struggling with depression and sees no end in sight to their misery, alcohol and drugs are often the most cost-effective and attainable solution to their problems. Although these substances may provide temporary relief to their emotional pain and even happiness for some, these substances are addictive. The more you consume these substances, the more dependent your body will become on their effects. Over time, substance abuse will lead to health problems like brain damage or even death.
Major depression affects an estimated 17.3 million American adults, translating to 7.1 percent of the U.S. population. Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than men, and 1.9 million children between ages 3 and 17 are diagnosed with depression. More than 20 percent of Americans with a mood disorder like depression or anxiety have a substance or alcohol use disorder.
Those struggling with depression face an uphill battle, and many elements of depression overlap with the signs of addiction, which makes it crucial that individuals get the necessary care and treatment for both disorders. If you don’t treat depression in therapy, you’ll likely leave with the same symptoms that caused you to use drugs or alcohol, meaning relapse is imminent.
Both addiction and depression may cause a person to:
For a person struggling with depression, it’s tempting to find an escape and relieve the feelings with alcohol or drugs. Despite their ability to ease depression, drugs or alcohol will ultimately lead to more harm in a person’s life, including personal hardships and financial troubles.
There are several different types of depression that can affect a person. Below, we’ll discuss the most common types.
Depression symptoms will vary based on the type. A co-occurring addiction to illicit substances or alcohol can increase the severity of these symptoms. Individuals suffering from depression have a 10 percent lifetime suicide risk. When you combine this with substance abuse, the suicide risk increased to nearly 25 percent.
The most common symptoms of depression include the following:
The majority of those who experience depression will experience one or more of these symptoms at some point in their lives. However, for those with severe depression, symptoms can be dangerous, and in some cases, life-threatening. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you should immediately call 911. It could potentially save a life.
Symptoms of severe depression can be dangerous and include the following:
What makes a dual diagnosis so challenging to treat is that each disorder will intensify the symptoms of another. Drinking in excess will not make depression better; it’ll make the condition more serious. If someone is an alcoholic, their depression will prevent them from getting the right mindset to overcome their alcohol addiction.
The complexity level behind treating a dual diagnosis patient is high. It’s a known fact that those who have a dual diagnosis will not get the care necessary in a traditional rehab program. Only specific programs designed to handle psychiatric problems and drug or alcohol conditions will be able to help. These programs will offer the necessary detox, counseling, and aftercare planning.
Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the country. Nearly 16.1 million American adults will experience at least one major depressive disorder this year.
A 2014 study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 7.9 million Americans have a dual diagnosis, which refers to having a mental illness like depression, and a substance use disorder at the same time.
Both disorders affect one another. For example, a person with depression will likely use substances to ease their symptoms. On the flip side, substance abuse will exacerbate mental illness symptoms, and in some cases, cause them.
Withdrawal from alcohol and certain types of drugs may result in symptoms that overlap with or are similar to those seen in cases of depression.
Using and withdrawing from these substances will intensify preexisting mental health disorders, which is another reason those suffering from addiction and depression to be evaluated by a professional for an adequate diagnosis.
Ideally, both conditions should be treated at the same time through an integrated treatment that focuses on relapse prevention. Many symptoms of depression will return and worsen after a drug user becomes abstinent.
WebMD (November 2020) Alcohol and Depression. from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/alcohol-and-depresssion#:~:text=Nearly%20one%2Dthird%20of%20people,few%20years%20down%20the%20road
DBSA (March 2021) Depression Statistics. from https://www.dbsalliance.org/education/depression/statistics/
NIMH (March 2021) Major Depression. from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
NCBI (May 2007) The Management of Suicidality. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921310/
NAMI (March 2021) Substance Use Disorders. from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Substance-Use-Disorders
Mayo Clinic (March 2021) Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651