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How Are Depression and Addiction Treated?

treatment for depression and addictionMajor depressive disorder, often referred to as clinical depression or simply depression, is a chronic mental health condition characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness that last for several months or years. People who suffer from depression may find it difficult to carry out daily tasks, such as getting out of bed, taking a shower, and cleaning the house. These individuals may struggle to find the motivation to perform well at work or socialize with their peers.

Unfortunately, depression is considered a risk factor for substance abuse since the symptoms of depression often cause people to abuse substances to cope. In fact, people with severe depression are twice as likely to struggle with substance abuse compared to the general population.[1]

Although drugs and alcohol may be able to numb the symptoms of depression on a temporary basis, substances are not an effective solution for depression. Using substances to self-medicate will only lead to the development of an addiction.

When an individual struggles with co-occurring depression and substance use disorder, it’s important they seek proper treatment. Here is what patients can expect during treatment for depression and addiction.

Understanding the Relationship Between Depression and Addiction

Treating co-occurring disorders like depression and addiction begins with psychoeducation. This is because patients must understand their condition in order to overcome it. The good news is both conditions are able to be treated simultaneously due to the overlapping symptoms between depression and addiction. People with both conditions may:

  • Give up on participating in social activities or hobbies
  • Refuse to acknowledge self-destructive behaviors or get help for those behaviors
  • Isolate themselves from friends and family
  • Have issues in their personal relationships at work, home, and school

Depression is one of the most common psychiatric comorbidity among patients who struggle with addiction. People with substance use disorder are nearly three times more likely to struggle with depression than the general population.[1,2]

In some cases, depression comes first, causing individuals to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. In other cases, addiction comes first. Over time, repeated substance abuse alters the chemical processes in the brain, making individuals susceptible to mood changes and mental health issues such as depression.[3] Regardless of which condition appeared first, a dual-diagnosis approach is the key to effective care.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Depression and Addiction

Before starting treatment, individuals must undergo a thorough psychiatric assessment. This assessment helps the clinical team determine an appropriate course of action for the patient. Since treating depressive disorders and co-occurring addictions can be difficult, it’s important to tailor therapies and treatment methods to meet a patient’s individual needs.

Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressant medications (usually SSRIs) are often used alongside behavioral therapy techniques to help correct chemical imbalances in the brain. These medications work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that affects mood and energy. While most antidepressants have minor side effects, it can be challenging to find the right fit for a patient.

Three of the most widely used antidepressant medications are:

  • Prozac (Fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (Sertraline)
  • Celexa (Citalopram)

It’s important to note that antidepressant medications do not treat substance use disorder. They can help balance brain chemicals, but they cannot provide the tools needed to sustain sobriety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

An integral part of treatment for depression and addiction is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to address destructive thoughts and actions that lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms. During CBT sessions, patients focus on identifying negative thought processes and transforming them into more healthy ones. This can help individuals overcome defeating self-talk and feelings of worthlessness.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Both depression and substance abuse can make individuals reluctant to ask for help. Furthermore, depression can make it hard for individuals to find the motivation to stay sober and stick to their treatment plan. As a result, motivational interviewing (MI) is a popular approach used when treating these conditions.

During MI, therapists help patients develop positive perspectives about their lives, recovery, and surroundings. Therapists encourage patients to find internal motivation for recovery and to improve their self-esteem.

Family Systems Therapy

Dual diagnosis treatment programs for depression and addiction are most effective when the patient has a strong support system and when the family is involved. Family systems therapy addresses family-wide problems and communication skills to achieve the following goals:

  • Bring the family closer together
  • Educate family members about depression and the disease of addiction
  • Improve communication skills throughout the household
  • Help family members set and maintain healthy boundaries
  • Establish a healthy and supportive home environment

Support Groups and Lifestyle Changes

While individualized therapy and antidepressant medications can provide patients with the foundation they need to stay sober, it’s important to implement lifestyle changes into one’s recovery. Positive lifestyle changes that can help reduce depression include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Regular sleep schedule
  • Journaling

In addition to healthy habits, it’s important for individuals in recovery to have a support group.[2] Support groups can help individuals stay accountable, avoid isolation, and get connected with other like-minded individuals. Popular choices for support groups include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • SMART Recovery
  • Alumni groups
  • Church groups

Find Treatment for Depression and Addiction in the Boston Area Today

Left untreated, depression can lead to drug relapse and have other devastating effects on a patient’s wellbeing. Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment programs in the Boston area specializing in treating both depression and addiction. During treatment, patients are given a variety of resources to control their symptoms and reduce the psychological impacts of their conditions.

Here at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our individualized rehab programs are custom-tailored to meet each patient’s unique needs. To learn more about our treatment program or to find help for a loved one, contact us today.



Ready to Make a Change?

We know that overcoming addiction is not easy and requires courage to ask for help. At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our team of professionals has decades of combined experience in helping men, women, and families overcome substance abuse.

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