Co-Occurring Depression and Substance Abuse Treatment

withdrawalIn 2012, about 16 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode, says the National Institute of Mental Health. An episode like this can be debilitating, removing the happiness and the joy from almost every aspect of life. For some, those feelings are terribly hard to live with, and when the depression hits, these people might choose to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Drugs of abuse can cause minor changes in the cells of the brain, and when that happens, an addiction can develop.

For people with addictions and depression, the consequences can be severe, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Treatment can be a remarkable help. Here, people can learn to get control over both conditions, and their lives might never be the same once treatment is complete.

The Problem With Self-Medication

Depression is an eminently treatable problem, but people who abuse substances may blur the path they need to take in order to achieve a recovery.

Sometimes, they can make their symptoms of depression worse with each hit they take.

For example, people who abuse alcohol during an episode of depression may feel their spirits lift with each sip. The alcohol works on portions of the brain that handle euphoria and joy, so drinking makes these people feel better. But, when the alcohol is gone, a withdrawal depression can kick in.

The boost of euphoria drugs can bring can damage the circuits the brain uses to deliver signals of pleasure. Each additional hit of damage leaves the brain a little bit more unable to respond to joy and pleasure. So in the aftermath of hits, depression can deepen.

Healing Prognosis

Close-up Of Male Doctor Filling The Medical FormClose-up Of Male Doctor Filling The Medical Form[/caption]People with addictions and depression often have symptoms that are more persistent and severe, when compared to people who have either illness alone, says the National Institute of Drug Abuse. That makes sense, as addictions and depression seem to feed on and strengthen each another. People who have both conditions would clearly have more difficulties with healing, since they’re dealing with two conditions instead of one.

Even so, experts say that depression and addiction can be effectively treated, and that people who have these conditions can get better with the right kind of help. That remains true even in people who just don’t think that therapy or rehab can help.

Depression can make people feel helpless and hopeless, as though nothing will ever change or get better. Those thoughts and feelings can keep people out of treatment programs, as they may truly believe that nothing they do will make any difference. But, just a few days into treatment, people may come to realize that those feelings of futility and hopelessness are part of the depression disease process. They’re destructive thoughts the mind creates, but they’re not really representative of the truth. When people understand that, they’re well on the way to health. Treatment can make it happen.

Treatment Planning

A treatment plan for a person with depression should almost always include medication, says the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Psychiatric medications for depression can correct the chemical imbalances that lead to distorted thinking. That little boost could be just what people with depression need in order to think clearly, so they can focus on the therapies that help them to control depression naturally.Antidepressant medications don’t take effect immediately, and sometimes, clinicians need to adjust the dosage a few times in order to hit on a formula that provides the right level of relief. With the help of medications, people with depression may begin to feel dramatically better.

Medications might also play a role in the treatments given to people addicted to some kinds of drugs. Specific drugs of abuse, like heroin or alcohol, change brain chemistry to such a degree that people feel ill when they try to get sober. Medications can soothe that withdrawal process, so people can get sober without those worrisome side effects.Once people feel calm, sober, and in control, the team can come up with a treatment plan to provide long-lasting relief. Typically, that plan will involve a great deal of therapy.

Therapy Choices

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is often provided to people with addictions and depression. In this form of therapy, the person works on skills with a therapist. The person learns to:

  • Identify depression/addiction triggers
  • Avoid those triggers
  • Handle trigger exposure when it can’t be avoided
  • Build a satisfying life that provides protection against relapse

The goal isn’t to examine every single aspect of a person’s past choices. Instead, the team attempts to provide the person with real-life skills that can protect against addiction/depression relapse. The issue is treated like a puzzle that the team can always solve.

This type of therapy is typically well-tolerated by people in need.

In a study of the issue, in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers report that clients found the therapy helped them to understand multiple aspects of their lives, and the therapy allowed them to see big improvements over time. That kind of help is vital, and it’s available to anyone who enrolls in treatment.

Therapy like this might be augmented with other forms of addiction care. People might be asked to participate in addiction support group work, or they might be asked to work with their families in family therapy. Alternative therapies like art therapy, music therapy, massage, and yoga might also play a role in the person’s full recovery.

Getting Help

About 20 percent of people with a mood disorder like depression also have a substance abuse disorder, says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. If you have both issues at the same time, you’re certainly not alone. There are all sorts of treatment teams that would love to help you. At the Orlando Recovery Center, we have a team just like this. We specialize in helping people who have addictions and mental illnesses, and we’re known for providing effective and compassionate care. Please call to find out more about how our program works and how you can enroll.

Medical Disclaimer: Orlando Recovery Center aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.