Drug Rehab for Addiction and Depression

Jump to:

1. A Blackness Descends
2. Depression and Addiction
3. Addressing the Issue
4. Antidepressant Medications
5. The Role of Therapy
6. A Supportive Environment
7. Moving Forward

At times, it can be hard for experts to know where addiction ends and depression begins. The two conditions share so many of the same risk factors, and sometimes people who are depressed show many of the same symptoms as people who are addicted to substances. Since these conditions are so similar, and so intertwined, some experts in the past chose to treat addiction first, and then watch their clients closely to see if their depression symptoms eased. According to an article in Psychiatric Services, some therapists asked their clients to stay sober for four weeks before they began to get treatment for depression. While this might have helped the therapists to compartmentalize treatment, it isn’t always helpful for the person who needs treatment. In fact, treatment that blends both addiction issues and depression issues might be much more effective. See also: Co-Occurring Conditions.

A Blackness Descends

Almost everyone feels blue and sad from time to time. For people with depression, however, that depressive feeling is much more intense. Listening to their stories can make the depth of the misery a bit easier to understand. As Elizabeth Wurtzel writes in her book, Prozac Nation, “A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” For people with depression, the black mood simply will not lift, and it seems to grow stronger and more intense each day.

Symptoms of major depression include:

  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Eating too much or not eating at all
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Contemplating death
  • Lack of interest in things the person once loved
  • Inability to concentrate

Men and women can both experience depression, but some of the symptoms they exhibit can be different. For example, the Mayo Clinic reports that men who are depressed might exhibit anger, abusive behavior or risky behavior. Where women might seem low and sad, men might seem just furious at the world. Both have depression, but they have different expressions of that illness.
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Depression SignsDepression and Addiction

Some people who have depression turn to alcohol or drugs for relief. By using substances, they hope to numb the pain they’re feeling and make the day a bit more bearable. Since depression can cause people to develop insomnia, some people abuse substances in the hopes of getting a good night’s sleep. People in severe throes of depression might also feel worthless or unlovable, and they may turn to substances in order to help them interact with friends. Without substances, they may feel like sleeping or staring at the walls. With substances, they might feel as though they can talk to others and muster up the energy to leave the house.

Depression can also be caused by substance use and abuse. Drugs and alcohol cause pleasant symptoms because they target the pleasure centers in the brain. As a result of the long-term abuse, these pleasure centers begin to burn out and they may not respond to low levels of stimulus. As a result, people who abuse drugs may feel chronically depressed between hits of the drug. Sometimes, this depression is overt. Other times, it is not. According to a study published in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly, many people who entered a top treatment program for heroin addiction had strong feelings of depression, but the depression wasn’t easy to see in the behavior of the people. In other words, they were depressed, but adept at hiding it.

Depression is also linked to a change in life status or a serious blow to a person’s sense of self and security. Longstanding addiction can certainly cause this sort of change. For example, people who are addicted might experience:

  • Death of friends
  • Loss of friendships
  • Divorce
  • Lack of contact with children
  • Unemployment
  • Homelessness
  • Incarceration

Any of these situations could cause a person to feel low and sad, and that could spiral into a long-term depression issue.

There may also be a genetic overlap between addiction and substance abuse. People with a family history of depression may have malformations in the amount of pleasure-related neurotransmitters they produce. By taking drugs, they mimic the action of the neurotransmitters they lack, and as a result, they feel an even greater response to those drugs. With a greater response comes a greater risk for addiction. Therefore, people who have a genetic propensity for depression might also have a genetic propensity for addiction.
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Addressing the Issue

According to a study published in the journal Addiction, people who had high scores on tests of anxiety and depression were more disabled and drank more alcohol than people who did not score high on these same tests. When pulling together an addiction treatment program, doctors often attempt to determine the severity of the addiction, and the ability of the person to handle that addiction issue. Since people who have depression and addiction tend to have high levels of disability, they tend to need high levels of care. Instead of receiving care on an outpatient basis, they might fare better in a top inpatient program for addiction.

While people with depression might feel unmotivated, or even a little withdrawn, they are often asked to provide input on the facility they’ll use, and the treatment they’ll receive there. This is an important part of the healing process. Addiction can rob people of the ability to make their own decisions and lead an independent life. By allowing people to speak up and have a say about their care, counselors are helping clients to get at least some of that control back.

Choosing the right program often means asking a series of questions of each facility, and then comparing notes to determine which program provides the right kind of care. Good questions to ask include:

  • Do you have staff members that are qualified to treat depression?
  • How will the program address both the addiction and the depression?
  • Does the facility use science-based therapies for both addiction and depression?
  • How is the family included in care?
  • Are insurance payments accepted?

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Understanding Antidepressant Medications

There are a variety of medications that can help to correct the chemical imbalances that lead to depression, but according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many medications take two to four weeks to begin working, and some antidepressants need six to 12 weeks before they reach full effectiveness. Since these medications take so very long to work, the medication therapy might start on the very first day that addiction therapy begins. The person will have a significant amount of medical attention in the early portion of the therapy process, and this can help to keep the person afloat until the antidepressant medications begin to kick in.

It’s important to note that these antidepressant medications often have no effect on the underlying addiction. The person might feel a significant amount of relief from symptoms of depression, but the urge to abuse substances is likely untouched by antidepressants. The medications aren’t designed to help with drug cravings, so it’s no surprise that they do not assist with drug or alcohol addiction. Therapy is the best way to deal with the underlying addiction.

Some medications can help the people to deal with the symptoms of addiction. For example, a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reports that giving people with depression and opiate addiction the medication naltrexone might be helpful. This medication blocks opiates from attaching to receptors in the body, meaning that the opiates do not cause euphoria when they’re taken. This medication doesn’t address depression, but it can make a relapse less likely.
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Therapy for Depression and AddictionThe Role of Therapy

In any addiction program, therapy has a key role to play. In a therapy program, the person can learn more about how addiction works, and how it can be controlled through changing thoughts and changing habits. For example, some people who abuse drugs do so using very predictable patterns. They always feel an urge to use at a particular time of day, when faced with a specific set of challenges or when spending time with particular people. In therapy, these addicts might learn how they can avoid these situations or how they can spend time in these situations without resorting to drug use. Breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation techniques can also help people to deal with their drug-use triggers.

Similarly, people with depression might also have triggers for increased low moods. Rather than being external triggers, such as friends or locations, these triggers might be mental. People with depression might have hidden messages that play in their heads telling them they are dumb, worthless or unlovable. In therapy, they might be able to identify those hidden messages, confront them and move forward without acting on those thoughts with feelings of depression.
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A Supportive Environment

In order to truly recover, a person with depression and addiction will need to learn how to put together a completely different life. This new life won’t revolve around substance abuse. Instead, it will be a life full of hope, health and serenity. This can be hard for people to envision without help, and treatment programs often try to inspire their patients with ideas of how their lives might be when treatment is over.

For example, the Mayo Clinic reports that physical exercise can help boost production of feel-good chemicals in the brain, and this can lead to reduced feelings of depression. Exercise might also help people to cope with their depression without turning to drugs and alcohol. In a recovery program for addiction, counselors might encourage clients to take yoga classes or take walks around the grounds. These habits, started in recovery, can persist long after the program is over.

Similarly, some people with addiction and depression are accustomed to eating foods that are high in sugar and salt. In a top drug recovery program, clients might be exposed to amazing foods that remind them of the pleasures found in fine cuisine. These clients might even take cooking classes, learning more about how eating well could keep them from developing depressive symptoms. Again, these habits could persist when the treatment program ends.
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Moving Forward

While having depression and an addiction issue can be extremely difficult to deal with alone, in the best drug treatment programs, both of these issues can be addressed. This is the sort of care we provide at Alta Mira. We use therapies that are firmly supported by scientific principals, and our handsome facility provides the soothing, comforting environment that our clients need in order to heal. For more information on our program, please contact us. Operators are standing by.
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