Mental health professionals and researchers know that depression and addiction are linked. Suffering from a mental health condition and addiction at the same time is called a “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorders.” It’s especially common to suffer from depressive disorders along with addiction.
What’s not always understood clearly is which causes which. It’s the old chicken-or-egg scenario. Does substance abuse cause depression, or does depression evoke substance abuse?
The answer: Both.
“The relationship between the two disorders is bi-directional,” explains Kathleen Smith, Ph.D. “People who abuse substances are more likely to suffer from depression, and vice versa.” Doctors can no doubt cite instances on both sides, in which one disorder triggered the other. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry shows that having major depression could predict future substance abuse.
Depression and Substance Abuse: A Toxic Combination
These two conditions tend to make each other worse in a vicious cycle.
If you’re depressed, you may turn to alcohol and drugs to try to relieve your pain. While under the influence, you may feel happier and lighter and forget your problems for a while. Drugs and alcohol can relieve your depression symptoms of loneliness and isolation by making it easier to socialize.
But substances are only a temporary fix. Depression returns—usually worse than before. You turn to those substances once again, and the pattern repeats.
If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you might lose friends and spend less time doing the things you once enjoyed. Your addiction could affect your job and family relationships. These losses can bring on symptoms of depression.
The connection between depression and addiction creates unique and dangerous problems. Once this dependency is created, it’s difficult to break.
Using substances when depressed comes with its own set of hazards. Sufferers coming down off the effects of alcohol or drugs experience intense emotions. They may then have the urge to self-harm or commit suicide.
Substance abuse also means higher risks for accidental injury and health problems. Drugs and alcohol weaken your immune system, making you more likely to become sick. Risky behaviors while under the influence can indirectly contribute to your depression. For example, gambling may result in intense regret and self-blame.
Depressed patients may also start abusing their depression medication. Most people don’t get addicted to typical antidepressant medications, but not everyone who has depression takes typical antidepressants. For example:
- Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax® and Valium®, are being used to treat depression. They create a sense of well-being and euphoria. Although they fight depression, they have very high addiction potential.
- Ketamine is a potential treatment for severe depression and chronic pain. It’s known as a club drug and is only used therapeutically in very low doses under strict medical care. When misused, it has sedative and hallucinogenic effects.
- Depressed people are more likely to abuse medications they take for health A depressed person with a prescription for a narcotic painkiller is more likely to abuse that narcotic than someone without depression. This is true even if that person has no history of substance abuse.
Breaking the Cycle
Dual diagnosis is difficult to treat. Patients are often treated for each disorder separately. Or they’re treated for one and not the other. Some people believe you can be treated for depression once you’re no longer abusing drugs or alcohol.
The trouble is, studies show these methods increase the risk of relapse. Little sustainable progress can be made until both conditions are treated together.
Prescribing one-size-fits-all depression and addiction treatment may be unwise. This is especially true when there is a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and depression. Your dual diagnosis should be carefully evaluated by your mental health provider. They can then help you build a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an option for depression treatment. It doesn’t involve any medications, and it’s a good supplement to substance abuse treatment. It’s non-invasive, approved by the FDA, and it’s shown great progress in treating severe and treatment-persistent depression.
Remission from depression is a possibility at only eight weeks of treatment. If you have co-occurring disorders, TMS therapy could be the answer to your depression as you seek addiction recovery.
Give Success TMS a call to get more information about TMS therapy. If you’ve started your journey of addiction recovery, you may experience anxiety as a symptom of withdrawal. In addition to depression, TMS therapy can treat anxiety. Learn more here.
We have locations across the U.S. and can help you understand whether TMS treatments are a good option for you!