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Depression & Addiction | Dual Diagnosis Prevalence, Symptoms, Risk Factors, & Treatment

Published on April 26, 2021
Depression & Addiction | Dual Diagnosis Symptoms & Treatment

Depressive disorder is more than a bad day or a bad month. It’s a significant mood disorder and medical condition that can pull you down to a mental place without joy or excitement and trap you in guilt, confusion, fear, and shame.

For those experiencing depression, addiction is a common co-occurring disorder that introduces new symptoms, risk factors, and recommended treatments.

Fortunately, depression and addiction treatment options are available to help you or a loved one improve, manage, and resolve both of these disorders.

Prevalence

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for those between 15 and 44 years of age, and impacts more than 16.1 million American adults, or approximately seven percent of the population, in a given year. 

Of those who experience depression, an estimated one in three misuse alcohol, and one in five misuse other substances. 

Unfortunately, following the upheaval and isolation of the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic, these figures are expected to have risen significantly. 

From the start of the pandemic, researchers and organizations have tracked a number of different signs that anxiety disorders, panic disorders, depression, and substance abuse have worsened dramatically.

Symptoms Of Major Depression

Major depressive disorder, also called clinical depression, is characterized by depressive symptoms that continue uninterrupted for at least two weeks. 

These symptoms often include:

  • hopelessness, sadness, or emptiness
  • anger, frustration, or irritability
  • guilt, helplessness, or worthlessness
  • lack of interest in typical activities
  • lethargy, poor concentration, or restlessness
  • periods of too little or too much sleep
  • major changes in appetite or weight
  • pain and discomfort without a clear cause

Symptoms Of Addiction

Addiction, or substance use disorder, refers to a condition of uncontrolled drug abuse and addictive behavior. 

Addiction often involves some degree of physiological dependence on the substance being abused. As the body becomes more reliant on the drug, withdrawal symptoms may occur if you stop taking it or take less.

Symptoms of addiction can include:

  • cravings and urges to take the drug
  • being unable to stop taking drugs or reduce your dosage, even if you want to
  • spending excessive time getting drugs, taking them, and recovering from them afterwards
  • risky behaviors (lying, theft, driving under the influence, etc.)
  • increasing your dosage over time
  • sacrificing work, school, or family responsibilities/relationships for drug use
  • rationalizing away your drug use and the risks or consequences it is causing
  • harmful changes in personality, behavior, health problems, mental health, and self-care

Unfortunately, the longer drug use continues without formal substance abuse treatment, the worse addiction will likely become.

Risk Factors

A variety of genetic, environmental/social, and psychological factors have been associated with increased risk of one or both conditions. These risk factors include:

  • an unstable or traumatic childhood
  • poor parental involvement
  • immediate family members with substance use disorders or depression
  • chronic medical conditions
  • traumatic life events
  • high levels of day-to-day stress, including financial insecurity
  • poor coping skills

Co-Occurring Depression & Substance Abuse

Depression and substance use both play off and reinforce one another, as do other mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, and mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

An individual experiencing depression and dissatisfaction with their day-to-day experience may turn to substance use to self-medicate and improve their symptoms. 

Escalating symptoms of substance use can also cause or worsen depression by impairing your ability to care for yourself, invest in your passions, or maintain your social connections.

Also, depression, anxiety, and panic are common symptoms of drug withdrawal and detox once you start working on recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Options

Because depression and addiction are such a common pair, integrated treatment strategies have been developed to address both of these conditions.

Your treatment program may include:

Medications

Common medications used to treat depression and drug addiction include:

  • antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which help manage symptoms of depression at the source
  • naltrexone, a drug that blocks opioid receptors in the central nervous system to decrease the reward associated with opioid or alcohol use
  • disulfiram (Antabuse), a drug used in treatment of chronic alcohol abuse which causes nausea and flushing after alcohol consumption
  • methadone, a synthetic opioid agonist which can be taken long-term to reduce the intensity of opioid cravings and other opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • buprenorphine, a weak but long-acting synthetic opioid used to help manage opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a popular and well-regarded treatment option that helps individuals take control of negative emotions and thought processes that contribute to depression or substance use. 

With the help of a professional therapist, patients examine and self-monitor themselves and learn to recognize harmful situations and feelings, building coping strategies to better manage internal challenges.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT works to reframe and repair valued relationships by using social connections, love, and support to improve depression.

Problem-Solving Therapy (PST)

PST Can help you identify stressors or pain points in your life that contribute to depression, and then develop solutions or coping strategies for them.

Contingency Management (CM)

CM focuses on the later stages of recovery, working to reduce the likelihood of relapse while planning for contingencies in case a relapse should occur.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET is all about developing motivation and hope to help you maintain long-term recovery.

Other Supportive Programs

Group therapy, education, medication, exercise, psychiatry, and other services may also be used to give you additional support during the rehabilitation process.

To learn more about professional dual diagnosis treatment plans, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

Depression & Addiction FAQ

Does Depression Co-Occur With Meth Addiction?

Depression can become more severe due to meth use. If depression co-occurs with meth addiction, this dual diagnosis can lead to serious mental health concerns. Using meth can also cause short-term and long-term side effects, including depression. 

Learn more about Depression & Meth Abuse

Does Depression Commonly Co-Occur With Opioid Addiction?

Yes. Many people who struggle with opioid abuse or addiction also have depression. 

In some cases, a person may start abusing opioids to cope with depression. While the drugs may cause temporary relief, opioid abuse usually leads to addiction and worsened depression.

Other times, opioids can cause depression in an otherwise healthy individual by changing parts of the brain. 

Learn more about Depression & Opioid Use

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) - Depression
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) - Facts & Statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Comorbidity of Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Executive Order Saving Lives Through Increased Support for Mental and Behavioral Health Needs Report

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