Depression and Addiction: What is the Connection?

Posted on 06/11/2019 07:39:00 AM
Depression and Addiction: What is the Connection?

In 2014, SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Survey on Drug Use and Health specified that around 7.9 million adults in the United States had two coexisting mental health problems, such as a substance use disorder and depression.

The New York Times stated that one-third of people with depression also have an alcohol problem. And figures provided by the University of Utah show that 27% of people who have the major depressive condition have a drug addiction too.

Mood disorders like depression and addiction occur together so frequently that a new term has been coined for it: Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring Disorders. The link between these conditions is like a 2-way street. They feed each other. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicated that people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to have mood disorders, and vice versa.

According to ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), one condition often makes the other worse. About 20 % of Americans with a mood disorder, such as depression, also have an addiction disorder, and about 20 % of those with an addiction also have an anxiety or mood disorder, the ADAA reports.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 90% of people who commit suicide in the US are struggling with addiction or depression or both.

Why does this happen?

Depression and addiction share certain triggering factors like environmental factors and genetics. When coupled, it increases the chances of developing both issues. Some of the common triggering factors are:

Brain development: drug/alcohol use while the brain is still developing, i.e. during teenage- increases the risk of a subsequent co-occurring disorder.

Heredity: Many studies have suggested that an individual’s genetic makeup may predispose them to mental health issues as well as addiction.

Trauma/ stress: When a person experiences an extremely stressful event like the death of a loved one, divorce, physical or sexual abuse, the risk of both mental illness and addiction increases.

Neurology: If there is a deficiency in the chemicals (neurotransmitters) that affect emotional stability, it can cause both depression and addiction.

What are the warning signs of dual diagnosis/ Co-Occurring Disorders?

Addiction and depression are 2 different disorders. Since they occur together so frequently, they have many common symptoms that can help determine if the treatment for multiple conditions is required:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or irritable for more than 2 weeks, even without the use of alcohol or drug
  • Using alcohol/drug to cope with unpleasant memories or feelings
  • Becoming isolated because of substance abuse
  • Depending on drugs/ alcohol just to get through the day
  • Problems in personal or professional relationships
  • Past treatment for depression or another mental health issue
  • A history of personal trauma or abuse that has never been addressed by a mental health specialist

What is the treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-Occurring mental disorders require a more comprehensive treatment program that can effectively address both issues. One disorder should not be treated alone because the patients, who are not treated for both the issues together, have significantly higher chances of relapse. Treatment for addiction and depression includes the use of both medications and therapies.

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