Depression as an Underlying Cause of Addiction

It’s no surprise that depression and substance use are strongly linked. Sometimes, substance abuse is present first and the negative consequences of addiction leads to depression. However, addiction experts believe that for many people, depression is there first and serves as a primary underlying cause of substance abuse that eventually leads to chemical dependency.

Alcoholism often results when people “drown their sorrows,” not realizing that alcohol, in itself, is a depressant. In fact, research indicates that as many as one-third of depressed people also have a problem with alcohol abuse or addiction. On the other hand, some people use cocaine, amphetamines or other stimulants to lift depressed spirits.

Chemical dependency occurs when people use alcohol and drugs to escape the painful feelings of depression. Addictive substances, as well as addictive behaviors such as gambling, shopping, pornography use or overeating, provide temporary relief from the overwhelming sadness. However, the good feelings are short-lived and depression worsens as addiction escalates, along with financial, legal, medical, emotional and social consequences.

When addiction and depression are both present, the condition is referred to as “dual diagnosis,” or a “co-occurring” disorder. Treatment is more likely to be successful if both conditions are addressed simultaneously. Attempting to treat addiction without treating the underlying depression is unlikely to be successful and carries a much higher risk of relapse.  Detox is necessary before treatment begins in order to see and diagnose the “full picture”.

If you or somebody you love is struggling with substance abuse and depression, seek treatment as soon as possible. Keep in mind that addiction is a chronic disease that only gets worse over time. Depression and addiction are not the results of laziness, poor morals, lack of willpower or any other personal failing, they are treatable conditions which should be tackled as quickly as possible.
Treatment involves the holistic application and cooperation between you or a loved one with empathic professionals from counseling, psychiatry, medicine, complementary therapies, nutrition specialist, trauma-specialists and many others.

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