Researchers in the field of mental disorders have been wondering about this dilemma for years, much like the question about the chicken and the egg. Does depression cause addiction by triggering a need for intoxication? Or does substance abuse cause depression by changing the way the brain functions?
Links between depression and substance abuse
- Depression can hasten drug or alcohol use as a form of self-medication.
- Drugs or alcohol can trigger depression by altering brain chemistry.
- The effects of substance abuse or withdrawal can resemble the signs of a depressive disorder.
- The neurological factors that cause depression may predispose the person to alcohol or drug addiction.
Addiction and depression are natural friends. Individuals that are depressed often turn to drugs and alcohol for self-medicating their real issues with depression, anxiety, and other personality disorders.
It is hard to differentiate between clinical depression and the effects of drugs or alcohol
Many of the most widely abused substances are central nervous system depressants. They include:
- Alcohol. Alcohol is taken as beer, wine, hard liquor, and spirits.
- Benzodiazepines, These include sedative/muscle relaxants such as Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam).
- Cannabis. This is taken as smokable and edible forms of marijuana.
- Opiates. They include illicit and prescription drugs derived from opium. Examples are heroin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.
- Barbiturates include powerful sedatives like Seconal (secobarbital) and Nembutal (pentobarbital).
Substance abuse is more common in depressed individuals than in the general population.
According to QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, men diagnosed with major depression are nearly thrice as likely to develop a dependence on alcohol. On the other hand, women with depression are over four times more likely to become alcohol-dependent.
Further, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder affects almost 7 percent of American adults (approximately 15 million people). Incredible!
Drug and alcohol abuse can worsen the development of depressive disorder
This increases the risk of outcomes such as:
- Drug or alcohol addiction.
- Psychiatric hospitalization.
- Suicide attempts.
- accidental or intentional overdose.
Also, people who with depression and substance use disorder are more likely to drop out of conventional substance abuse treatment programs before they finish rehab.