Depression And Substance Abuse

Depression And Substance Abuse

Whilst depression and substance abuse are two separate conditions, it is very common for people suffering from depression to also be battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This is known as a co-occurring disorder and can make it far more difficult to treat either problem.

According to statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research, people suffering from mental illness account for 69% of America’s alcohol usage, and consumer 84% of the nation’s cocaine. For those suffering from mental illnesses, particularly depression, drugs and alcohol often represent a temporary relief from feelings of sadness, isolation and emotional pain.

However, these substances are addictive, even for people who are emotionally healthy, and relying on them as a crutch to get through pain can lead to dependence very quickly. Not only this but taking drugs and alcohol regularly over a period of time can begin to exacerbate the emotional symptoms of depression, creating a cycle of addiction that can feel impossible to break free from.


What Are The Signs Of Depression?

Although depression and substance abuse often go hand in hand, it is true that the signs and symptoms of addiction can mimic those of depression, making it difficult to diagnose depression in someone who is actively addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Nonetheless, some of the signs to look out for include:

Fatigue and changes to sleep patterns

Low mood

Lack of interest in any activities, even those previously enjoyed

Changes in appetite and weight loss or gain

Difficulty concentrating

Lack of energy

Suicidal thoughts

It is important to note that not everyone with depression will display all or any of these symptoms, as mental illness often looks different in each individual person.


What Are The Types of Depression?

Different types of depression are marked by the differing ways in which people experience them, and how they are affected by substance and alcohol abuse. There are lots of different types of depression and some types are diagnosed alongside other mental conditions, but the four main types are:


Major Depression

This is one of the most common types of depression and is what most people think of when they describe ‘depression’. Major depression is typified by feelings of extreme sadness and lethargy, changes in sleeping patterns and irritability.

Major depression affects around 7% of the population and can recur throughout a person’s life if left untreated.



Dysthymia is a milder, yet chronic, form of major depression, that tends to continue for more than a year. It is generally more of a sense of sadness and gloominess that isn’t overwhelming yet persists and makes life feel less joyful.

People with dysthymia are likely to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, making it a key trigger for substance abuse issues. Dysthymia may also progress into major depression if left untreated.


Atypical Depression

Whilst still typified by the ‘usual’ symptoms of depression, those suffering from atypical depression may find that their mood is changed or uplifted according to external factors. If they get good news or have a particularly good day, for example, their mood may be temporarily lifted.

For those with atypical depression, substance abuse is common, as the ‘low’ periods can feel even less bearable when compared to the brief highs.


Seasonal Affective Disorder

This is a common form of depression that is predominantly a winter-only disease. People that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are affected by the variations in light that occur during the darker winter months. This leads to mood changes, changes to sleep patterns, overeating and anxiety.


Are You Suffering From Addiction?

If you are not sure whether you are suffering from depression, a substance abuse disorder or both, it may be useful for you to try to identify your relationship with drugs and alcohol before deciding whether or not you have depression.

Although it is best to speak with an expert to get a true read on your relationship with drugs or alcohol, you can also ask yourself a few questions to decide whether or not you should get help. These include:

Do you regularly exceed the expected amounts or amount of time you spend using drugs or alcohol?

Do you find it difficult to cut back or stop using substances altogether?

Do you experience cravings when you are not drinking or using substances?

Has your substance use started to interfere with your responsibilities?

Do you spend a lot of time using and recovering from your substance use?

Has your substance use increased just to maintain the desired effect?


How To Get Treatment

If you are suffering from depression alongside a substance abuse problem, it is key that you get diagnosed and are able to treat both issues concurrently. Whilst there are plenty of medications that can be used to successfully treat depression, there is a risk of these drugs interfering with your existing drug or alcohol use if these issues are not first tackled.

It is also difficult for doctors to appropriately diagnose and treat a mental health issue when you are still using drugs or alcohol, as they will struggle to get a gauge on your actual thoughts and feelings. For this reason, it is recommended that those suffering from substance abuse issues get a dual diagnosis so that detox can be handled first, with treatment for both conditions running simultaneously after this initial period.

Most doctors agree that medication and psychological intervention are important to work together in the treatment of both depression and substance abuse issues, as these help you to get to the root of the problem as well as the problem as it stands.

At Cassiobury Court we are able to provide you with up to 90 days’ residential rehabilitation, with wellness and psychological support systems in place to deal with the emotional as well as the physical sides of your addiction. You will be able to go to therapy sessions where your depression or any other mental illness can be approached, and you will also be taught coping skills that will help you to manage both conditions after your stay.

Cassiobury Court can be reached on 01923 369161 or you can text HELP to 83222 to get started on your rehab journey.