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The Depression – Substance Abuse Cycle and the Need for Rehab Treatment Help

As far as tag teams go, depression and substance abuse tend to go hand-in-hand regardless of which condition comes first. According to Roseman University of Health Sciences, nearly one out of every five Americans will develop a mental illness like depression or some form of addiction at some point in their lifetimes.

It’s not uncommon for people experiencing depression symptoms to turn to alcohol and/or drugs to gain relief. On the flipside, someone who abuses alcohol or drugs for prolonged periods of time will likely experience depression symptoms on a regular basis.

When these two conditions co-exist, it’s only a matter of time before a vicious cycle of substance abuse and depression symptoms start to take shape. For these reasons, it’s essential to get needed rehab help as this cycle will continue to spiral out of control for as long as a person keeps using drugs.

Depression & Substance Abuse: Two Sides of the Same Coin

depression and substance abuse

Substance abuse can cause and often worsens already existing depression.

Depression develops out of chemical imbalances in the brain that trigger impaired logic, reasoning and emotional-based processes. In turn, the symptoms that result from depression, such as sadness, feelings of guilt and shame only work to strengthen existing brain chemical imbalances.

In the case of substance abuse, both alcohol and drugs interfere with the brain’s normal chemical activity, creating a state of increasing chemical imbalance over time. Likewise, most all forms of substance abuse and addiction produce worsening symptoms of depression as chemical imbalances become more pronounced.

Brain Chemical Pathway Effects

While depression and substance abuse do have different causes, both produce the same overall effects on the brain’s chemical make-up. According to the University of Utah Health Sciences, addiction and mental illness in general are brain diseases that share certain key similarities:

  • Both conditions affect the same chemical pathways in the brain
  • Both conditions interfere with the brain’s normal chemical processes
  • Both conditions disrupt dopamine outputs, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter that plays a central role in regulating the brain’s reward system
  • Both conditions interfere with serotonin outputs, another mood-regulating neurotransmitter chemical

What you Must Know About Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis Disorder

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, dual diagnosis disorder develops in cases where depression and substance abuse co-occur. With dual diagnosis, the symptoms of both conditions tend to feed off one another due to the overall impact on the brain’s chemical balance. This means, depression symptoms will trigger drug-using urges and drug effects will aggravate depression symptoms. This vicious cycle of depression and substance abuse makes both conditions that much harder to identify and treat as the two sets of symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from one another.

The Need for Rehab Treatment Help

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, as the most prevalent form of mental illness, an estimated eight percent of Americans experienced depression within any given two-week period between the years 2007 and 2010. For people struggling with depression, alcohol and drugs offer seemingly convenient and effective ways of relieving emotional turmoil and stress. Over time, the effects of these addictive substances cause considerably more harm than good.

If you or someone you know struggles with depression and substance abuse issues, it’s never too soon to consider getting needed treatment help. If you have any further questions about the depression-substance abuse cycle, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-481-6320 for more information. Our phone counselors can also help with locating treatment programs in your area.

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