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Understanding How Depression Can Lead to Drug Relapse

depression and drug relapseDepression is a serious and chronic mental health condition that affects the way a person thinks, feels, and performs daily activities. While it is normal to feel upset when something bad happens or to have a low mood from time to time, persistent feelings of sadness and worthlessness are far more serious.

People who struggle with depression are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Similarly, people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.

The most reliable addiction treatment centers in Massachusetts address co-occurring disorders like drug addiction and depression to provide patients with the best possible chance at long-term recovery. This is because untreated mental health conditions, including depression, can lead to drug relapse and unsuccessful treatment outcomes.

The Relationship Between Depression and Drug Addiction

Mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, are the most common mental health conditions that co-occur in people who struggle with substance use disorders (SUDs). Approximately 32% of people with any type of mood disorder also struggle with substance abuse. A majority of individuals with mood disorders struggle with depression. Researchers estimate that 16.5% of people with depression have an alcohol use disorder and 18% have a drug use disorder. And, when compared to individuals without a mood disorder, people with depression were twice as likely to develop a SUD.[1]

Individuals who struggle with depression experience long periods of low mood, energy, and motivation. These symptoms can become chronic and can seriously impact a person’s quality of life. Many people with depression will try various antidepressant medications only to find little relief. Unfortunately, chronic depression can tempt a person to try self-medicating.

While drugs and alcohol may feel as though they can elevate mood and energy in the short term, they are not a suitable long-term solution. In fact, substance abuse can alter brain chemistry and depression worse. It can even cause depressive symptoms to develop in people who had previously not struggled with depression before.

Unfortunately, leaving depression untreated or ignored during the recovery process can increase a person’s risk of drug relapse.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression, also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, is a common, yet serious mental health condition. While major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression, there are other types of depression, as well. These include:[2]

  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
  • Postpartum depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Psychotic depression

The different types of depressive disorders are characterized by how often, how long, and how intense a person experiences symptoms. Symptoms of depression include:[2]

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Feelings of pessimism or hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Moving or speaking slowly
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or recalling events
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Digestive problems that do not ease with standard treatment

Why is it Important to Treat Both Depression and Addiction?

Left untreated, depression can increase the intensity of drug cravings and reduce overall treatment outcomes.[1] Chronic symptoms of depression can even lead to a potentially dangerous drug relapse. Even if a person with a history of depression seems “cured” in early recovery, it’s important to remember that these feelings of elation are common, but temporary, in early recovery.

Some people who get sober experience a phenomenon called the “pink cloud.” While on the “pink cloud” individuals feel better than they’ve ever felt before. They feel as though they are doing great things in sobriety, aren’t going to relapse, and have everything under control. They may even present with increased confidence, energy, and mood. However, when the pink cloud wears off (as it is always bound to do) untreated symptoms of depression can pick back up where they left off.

Ignoring past symptoms of depression or thinking one’s depression is cured can be a major mistake. Individuals may leave rehab without the proper tools to cope with depressive symptoms. They may get discouraged, aggravated, and even tempted to start the merry-go-round of self-medication once again.

How Can Untreated Depression Lead to Drug Relapse?

Symptoms of depression can be extremely painful. They can also decrease a person’s energy levels and motivation so much that they are unable to get out of bed and go about their daily responsibilities. Individuals who are suffering from severe depression may begin missing their 12-Step meetings or acting out in old behaviors that provide them with relief.

Over time, depression can take a serious toll on a person’s mental health. Some people may go to any lengths to feel better, motivated, or content. Unfortunately, this is how untreated depression can spiral into drug relapse.

Treatment for Depression and Drug Addiction in Massachusetts

When seeking treatment for addiction, it’s important to choose a facility that addresses co-occurring health conditions like depression.

“The team at Woburn Addiction Treatment is firmly grounded in the philosophy that life choices and the skills to influence those choices can break the cycle of addiction and return people to a life of purpose. At our addiction treatment center in Woburn, MA, our entire staff has the professional training necessary to guide each client to their highest potential through substance use disorder recovery.​”

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and ready to begin substance use disorder treatment, we’d love to help. Call now to get started.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851027/
  2. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression

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

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