Depression has become a major issue in today’s society. In the United States alone, there are over 17.1 million people affected every year by this every year. 17.1 million are is about 7.1% of the United States population, that’s a huge number. There is no one route cause for depression, but a vast majority of reasons for the disorder. The route cause can range from weather conditions to traumatic experiences in the past. However, we’re going to talk about one cause for depression we often don’t think about which is substance abuse. Can substance abuse cause or further increase the chances of someone having depression? Today, we’ll be discussing this and determining how much of effective substance abuse has on a person’s mental health.

Depression

First, let’s discuss what depression is. Depression is a state of physical and mental sluggishness where a person lacks the motivation to do many things in life (make friends, work, clean, exercise, etc.) It is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. Depression is far more likely to happen in a female than it would in a male. Unfortunately, this disorder can lead to detrimental side-effects. If you or a loved one is dealing with depression, you can expect to see side-effects like these:

  • Fatigue 
  • Depressed Mood
  • Loss of sleep or excessive amounts of sleep
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Mood swings
  • Negative feelings (guilt, worthlessness, even suicidal thoughts)

Left untreated, depression can cause serious illness or harm to a person. Suicidal thoughts are all too common for those who are experiencing depression for prolonged amounts of time. Depression is mentally and physically taxing to the person dealing with it. But, how does this disorder relate to substance abuse? Depression can either start or further enable addictive behaviors/substance abuse.

Depression and Substance Abuse

Did you know that people who suffer from depression often suffer from some form of substance abuse too? It’s true! 20% of people that have been diagnosed with depression or other mood disorders have or currently are suffering from some kind of addiction. This includes alcohol and illicit substances. The relationship between depression and substance abuse is considered bi-directional, meaning someone that suffers from depression is more likely to abuse substances and vice versa. Someone that is depressed may start to take up substance abuse to feel better, or a person who is using a substance may start to experience depression after frequent substance abuse.

Sometimes, these people will use substances in hopes of making themselves feel better. This is exactly how addiction starts; someone starts to believe a substance can make them feel more normal, at ease, or relaxed. The numbing feeling alcohol or drugs give someone can be highly addictive, especially to someone who feels as though they don’t have to live for. The substances can temporarily take away negative feelings and make them forget about any internal wars they have going on. What they don’t know is how substance abuse can further increase the symptoms of depression. Someone that is depressed may start to take up substance abuse to feel better, or a person who is using a substance may start to experience depression after frequent substance abuse.

Depression Increases Substance Abuse/Substance Abuse Increases Depression

As discussed earlier, depression can increase the chances of substance abuse and substance abuse can increase the chances of depression. It’s a bi-directional relationship! Almost any substance that acts as a stimulant has very harsh comedowns. For example, take alcohol. Alcohol can make some people feel better and more energized. But, at the end of the day, it is still a depressant. The highs feel high, but the lows feel even lower. A hangover can be a horrible thing to deal with, making a person feel even more down than they did before they consumed alcohol. Drugs act in virtually the same way. The highs feel great, but the comedowns are extremely hard to deal with. Because of this, the user will seek out the substance again to get rid themselves of the hangover or comedown, thus reinforcing their addictive habits. Once someone starts to seek ways of feeling numb to their depression through substance abuse, it’s downhill from there. Substance abuse does not help solve depression, it only further worsens it. One statistic says that about 1 out of every 3 people who struggle with substance abuse also struggle with depression. 

What Can Be Done?

There’s no denying there is a direct, or at least very close, the correlation between depression and substance abuse. Substance abuse further worsens depression and depression can increase the chances of someone falling into addiction. So what can be done about this? The best thing for you to do is seek treatment for yourself or someone you love that is going through addiction. Therapy can help someone figure out the root cause as to why they use or as to why they may be depressed. A counselor or therapist may prescribe antidepressant medication for the person to start taking in an effort to fight against their depression and their substance abuse. This is done in monitored amounts so that the individual does not start abusing their depression medication. However, before any of this can be done, the person struggling with depression/substance abuse must come forward and admit they have a problem.

The first step in the road to recovery is admittance, there is no shame in asking for help and admitting defeat. We all fall sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get back up and fight for what we want. If the person truly wants to make a change in their life, they’ll need to ask for help. The next step is detoxing, this process is usually recommended to be done through an addiction recovery facility. Medical professionals can monitor the individual to make sure they have a more comfortable experience while they go through the first stages of withdrawal. These initial stages of withdrawal can be extremely difficult to deal with by oneself. Through the rest of their time at an addiction recovery facility, they’ll go through dual-diagnosis, counseling, medical support, and peer support. 

If both depression and substance abuse are treated at the same time, the person can learn to deal with both of these issues through their recovery. Substance abuse and depression can be difficult things to deal with, but it is possible to beat both of them with proper treatment and support.  

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