At some point in one’s life, he will feel down or sad. These periods may come and go, but they soon pass and happiness returns. However, for others, depression is real and those low emotional periods do not pass as easily. Sometimes one’s depression can cause serious consequences in the person’s life, such as suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt. For some, depression may mean turning to drugs or alcohol to try to lessen the effects of the emotional pain they are experiencing.
To begin, here is a brief summary of depression: difficulty concentrating on daily or important tasks, loss of energy, unexplained feelings of exhaustion, sleeping too much or not enough, sudden loss or gain in weight, unexplained bouts of crying, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or despair, feelings of sadness or guilt, or suicidal ideation. People with depression may exhibit all or some of these signs consistently. Depression can develop from unresolved stressful situations in one’s life. It can also develop after being diagnosed with a life altering illness, such as diabetes or cancer. Depression also has a genetic component, which makes certain individuals more likely to develop the disorder. It is also linked to brain chemistry, which can be altered for many reasons, such as drugs or booze.
Next, is a quick description of substance abuse: feeling guilty about using drugs or alcohol, relational problems due to substance abuse, not being able to complete normal tasks due to drug or alcohol intake, trying to cut back on using drugs or drinking alcohol and remaining unsuccessful or lying about using substances or the amount of substances one is using. If any of these circumstances pertain to your life, you may have a substance abuse problem.
If you have a family history of depression or other mental health disorders, you are at a greater risk of developing these conditions yourself. If you have family members who misuse drugs or alcohol, you may also be predisposed to developing a substance related disorder as well.
Likewise, having depression has the potential to predispose an individual to substance abuse. It starts out innocently when we realize that a couple of drinks help make the sad feelings fade away, even if only for a little while. Quickly, the use of healthy coping skills fade to the background because using is so much easier than actually having to deal with the issues that are staring the person in the face. Then, the person becomes dependent and craves the substance at all costs. Furthermore, the problem becomes deeper and deeper because now the cycle continues. The person begins to feel guilty and shameful because of their drug use or drinking habits. It continues and continues with a never ending cycle now.
Drugs and alcohol are often ways individuals self medicate in order to endure the symptoms of depression. However, substance abuse often worsens the symptoms of depression in the long run, instead of helping them. For example, one who abuses substances to handler her depressive feelings will have more of a chance of being hospitalized due to her substance abuse or depression, developing a drug or alcohol addiction, increased risk of suicide attempts and overdose. Not only will it be ineffective at helping one overcome her problems, it could also cause her to have new problems as well. Using drugs and alcohol while taking prescription medications also interacts with the medications and their intended effects, causing the medication to be ineffective in treating health or mental health problems.
If any of the information above pertains to you, do not be discouraged because there is hope for you. It will take time and effort, but you can defeat both substance abuse and depression. You can get better if you commit to doing the work necessary to heal from these life altering issues. To treat a co-occurring illness, such as substance abuse and depression, it is best that you receive treatment for both issues at the same time. Treatment can happen with a single professional, a team of professionals, in outpatient treatment or inpatient treatment. However, the best treatment will address both the substance abuse disorder and the depression. You will learn how to better cope with your depression by learning new skills and wipe out the need to use drugs or alcohol instead of dealing with the stressful situations that arise in your life. With treatment, you will learn how drugs and alcohol play into your depression and vice versa. Learning to deal with stress and learning new coping skills are the key to a successful recovery from a substance abuse and a depressive disorder. The important thing to remember is there is help for the problems you are experiencing related to substance abuse and depression.