Depression and substance abuse are both complicated health issues that have continued to affect our society. A report published last year said that “around 1 in 6 (16%) adults aged 16 years and over reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms” whilst “2.6% of adults aged 16 to 59 years reported being frequent users of drugs”.

With building social issues mounting in the UK such as the cost of living, fuel, and food prices – more people are at risk of feeling hopeless and slipping into depression and addiction when they look at the state of the world.

Substance abuse and depression are conditions which are closely linked and need to be better understood to treat them effectively.

Do drugs cause depression? What effect do these things have on a person’s life? How can I recover from substance abuse and depression? It’s important to ask these questions and with help, you can find the answers. Find out more about the relationship between depression and substance abuse below.


Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Depression

Substance abuse is the use of illegal drugs, alcohol or any medication in a way that they are not supposed to be consumed. Usually abusing a substance means sustained and heavy use of drugs or alcohol, or binging substances regularly. Quickly, substance abuse can turn into a full-blown drug or alcohol addiction that can be hard to recover from.

Depression is a mental health condition that leaves a person with persistent feelings of hopelessness or emptiness that can impact your everyday life. There are different types and levels of depression – you can be a high-functioning depressive and seem fine to everyone else or it could be severe enough that you find yourself unable to get out of bed.

Both issues are connected by how they can affect your life. Besides the physical issues that they can cause, depression and substance abuse can bring financial issues, end relationships, and cost you your job.

The evidence of a correlation between depression and addiction is shown in the statistics as well. In a report from last year, 70% of people in treatment for substance abuse also were suffering from a mental health condition.


Symptoms of Depression and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and depression can affect people differently in many ways. Sometimes it is not always clear to yourself or others that you are suffering. Knowing what to look out for can be the first step to getting better.

Common Depression Symptoms

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feeling empty and numb more often
  • Change in eating habits
  • Avoiding social encounters
  • Self-harming/suicidal ideation

Common Substance Abuse Symptoms

  • Change in hygiene
  • Sleeping problems
  • Increased irritability
  • Lethargic
  • Experience withdrawal when you stop taking a substance

There are so many more signs of depression and substance abuse to be on the lookout for, but a combination of any of these could point to you having mental health and/or addiction problems. If that is the case you should reach out for help, be it a friend, family or a healthcare professional.


Is Substance Abuse a Risk Factor for Addiction?

Substance abuse is a risk factor for depression developing in a person.

Alcohol is a depressant on your central nervous system that initially acts as a stimulant. Once this fades though, alcohol can bring on feelings of lethargy and depression. Continued use of alcohol can make you feel more stressed and anxious and your life becomes centred around drinking. Soon depression can develop as a result of substance abuse.

Drugs and depression also go hand-in-hand. If drug abuse is not the cause of the depression, people using drugs to cope with depression often find it makes it worse. This is known as self-medicating, and it is a common problem. Drugs initially offer an escape from mental health issues, but like alcohol, this is only temporary. The issues that caused the depression are still there after the drugs wear off, which can lead to a person using more and soon a drug addiction develops, worsening the depression.

So, drugs can make depression that is already there worse, but how do drugs cause depression?

Well, substance abuse issues can also affect impulse control, mood regulation and alter your brain chemistry. If you have a history of depression in the family, drugs and alcohol could cause it to rear up and start affecting you. Going through withdrawal can also bring on depressive symptoms that may be the catalyst for more severe depression development.

Other common risk factors for both substance abuse and depression include trauma (childhood and recent), environment (abuse, surrounded by people that are addicts) and history (depression and/or addiction running in the family).


Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Depression

A dual diagnosis is when someone has simultaneous addiction and mental health issues. These issues can develop in tandem or as explored above, one can be the cause of the other, complicating the treatment of both addiction and depression.

Depression and substance abuse are commonly seen in rehab due to self-medication and how the conditions interact. Dual diagnosis treatment then involves a fine balance between treating the issues separately and at the same time.

Diagnosing dual diagnosis can be difficult as well and symptoms of depression can be obscured by substance abuse or misinterpreted. The symptoms can vary widely depending on the substance – addiction to cocaine looks very different from heroin abuse.

Dual diagnosis treatment presents problems as you can’t put focus on one condition over the other. The addiction may be a more pressing matter but without dealing with the underlying depression, you are likely to relapse. Dual diagnosis treatment also requires a place that can deal with your needs, be adaptive and find a treatment plan that works for your unique situation.

A holistic approach can include non-traditional mental health treatment is important to deal with all aspects of your dual diagnosis.


Seeking Professional Help for Substance Abuse and Depression

If you believe you have depression and substance abuse problems, getting help is the next step. This can be a hard thing to do – admitting to yourself that you have a problem is one thing but many people struggle reaching out to others.

Seeking professional help is the best way to start fighting back. You can talk to your GP who can recommend resources and officially diagnose you. For depression treatment, you could speak to a therapist and they can offer support and guidance – potentially recommending addiction treatment if you need it.

Private drug and alcohol rehab centres like Asana Lodge are places where you can deal with both your mental health and addiction issues. At Asana Lodge you will have access to a wide range of treatment options to aid you in your long-term recovery.

Detoxification for Substance Abuse

This is the physical aspect of addiction treatment. By detoxing from substances, you will go into withdrawal, which may bring on depressive symptoms. In a calm environment and under dedicated care, you will be made comfortable and the process will be as stress-free as possible.

Therapy Treatments for Depression and Addiction

Both individual and group sessions are vital to your time at Asana Lodge. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a key component of both depression and addiction treatment, supplying you with the tools to cope and problem solve more effectively.


Find Out More

Substance abuse and depression are closely linked issues that need to be handled with care. Alone these conditions can wreck a person’s life and together they can be devastating. Rehabilitation is possible with an integrated treatment programme that addresses both issues simultaneously – aware of the effect they can have on one another.

To find out more, contact Asana Lodge today at 01908 489 421 or fill out our contact form to learn more about dual diagnosis programmes.


John Gillen - Author - Last Updated: 4 August 2023

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of Nad+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. his passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases.

The journey continues, in recent times john has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with Nad+ scientists and the very best of the medical profession in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Clinics own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists, Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with Nad+ therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.

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