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Addictions and Depression



Dealing with an addiction is difficult enough without having other issues attached to it. Unfortunately, for many an addict there is another monster lurking beneath the surface – a monster that needs to be treated right alongside the addiction. What is that monster? It is depression.

According to the US National Institutes of Health:

  • nearly 30% of all individuals diagnosed with depression have also experienced substance abuse or dependence at some time during their lives

  • men with addiction issues are three times more likely to suffer from depression

  • women with addiction issues are four times more likely to suffer from depression.

When an individual is dealing with both addiction and depression simultaneously, it is known clinically as a dual diagnosis. It is actually more common than you might believe. How a dual diagnosis is treated depends on a clinical assessment of cause and effect. In other words, did one condition cause the other or are they both co-dependent?

There are two basic types of depression, known as:

  • Endogenous Depression – This type of depression is one that has a proven biological or genetic component. Someone with demonstrable chemical imbalances in the brain, for example, may exhibit this type of depression.

  • Situational Depression – With this type of depression, there is no biological or genetic component involved. Situational depression is simply the result of an inability to deal with excessive amounts of stress in a healthy way.

Cause and Affect

It has been suggested that the individual suffering from endogenous depression may be more likely to develop substance abuse problems later on. In such cases, the biological or genetic predisposition to depression increases the likelihood of addiction because the individual attempts to self-medicate through various substances.

When a case is as clear-cut as this, the treatment involves addressing the physical cause of the depression along with standard rehab for the addiction. Both will likely have to be treated for the remainder of the individual’s life – at least to some degree.

Situational depression is a different animal. Sometimes situational depression leads to addictive behaviour, other times it is just the opposite. When the latter is the case, a successful residential treatment programme may very well take care of both issues.

Dual Diagnosis Challenges

There are some very specific challenges that come with a dual diagnosis. Perhaps the biggest challenge is breaking through the perception of no hope. In other words, an individual with a dual diagnosis often has no hope that life can never be any better than what it currently is. That lack of hope may be persistent throughout a residential drug treatment programme.

The problem here is twofold: the influence of the depression and the clouded thinking resulting from drug addiction or alcoholism. Successful treatment requires dealing with both aspects. The question becomes one of which to tackle first.

An additional challenge with dual diagnosis is avoiding a future depressive episode that could trigger relapse. Regardless of whether depression is diagnosed as situational or endogenous, there is always the chance that a future episode could drive the recovering addict back to his/her substances of choice. This means therapists must always stay one step ahead of depression symptoms.

No Excuses Allowed

When it comes to the actual treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, depression can never be used as an excuse to leave it untreated. What’s more, therapists always need to tread lightly so they do not give the recovering addict a reason to believe that depression justifies substance abuse. It is a fine line to walk.

If you are the family member or friend of a dual diagnosis patient, you need to understand that you have the same responsibility as well. You cannot use depression as an excuse for addictive behaviour under any circumstances. Doing so only serves to enable the addict to continue doing what he or she is doing.

The fact remains that both depression and addiction can be successfully treated. There is no situation so hopeless that professional help is rendered impotent. Therefore, while you may need to exercise a bit of extra compassion in a dual diagnosis situation, you must be careful not to allow that dual diagnosis to continue enabling the addict.

Professional Help

Depression is a complicated thing to understand at times. Experts say both the addict and his/her family should never attempt to self-assess and treat depression in conjunction with drug or alcohol addiction. Both require professional help.

A good place to start looking for help is through your NHS physician. He or she can make an initial assessment before deciding the next course of action. If your physician believes the possibility of a dual diagnosis exists, he/she will refer you to a specialist.

Please understand that while NHS services are freely available to everyone in the UK, they are not always the wisest choice. The NHS is already stretched to the limit in every area; they do not have the resources to fully devote to treating a dual diagnosis situation.

A better option is to seek treatment in a private clinic offering successful residential programmes. Most of the clinics we work with employ medical professionals who are licensed and competent in the areas of addiction and dual diagnosis. They are more than capable of treating both at the same time.

How We Can Help

What is our role in all this? To help you find an addiction treatment programme for yourself or a loved one. We make it our business to know what is available all across the UK and, when appropriate, other locations around the world. We work with private clinics, alcohol and drug charities, support groups, and a variety of professional services.

When you contact us, we will help you assess your current situation before recommending the most appropriate treatment options. We will answer all of your questions, including those having to do with facility locations, treatment costs, and admissions. We will even help you make the arrangements if necessary.

Addiction and depression can be devastating in a dual diagnosis situation. However, there is help available if you are willing to seek it. Please do so by contacting us over the phone or by sending an e-mail. We are here to help in any way we can.

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