Which came first; the depression or the drug addiction?
Depression and Addiction it may be difficult to tell which caused what. Depression is a clinical term, therefore we do not offer this discussion as the definitive description of depression, as that is best left to a professional. Rather, we will talk about what appears to be depression to give you an idea of the signs and symptoms. Is it depression, or does someone just have the “blues?”.
One Thing Leads to Another
One thing can lead to another. In the case of addiction, the presence of depression could have come before the addiction, or come as a result of the addiction. Whatever the case, Depression and Addiction are often found together.
When you look at the signs of drug abuse, you’ll find that users often lose interest in activities that they used to love, or they lose interest in family and friends. There are signs of drug addiction. However, these are also signs of depression, and you can see that the two can be closely linked.
We include depression mainly because drug addiction recovery is a long distance run, not the 100 yard dash. Why do people use? I see addiction from a spiritual/psychological angle, but obviously there are important medical concerns.
I want to encourage you to seek professional help should any of the possible symptoms be true in your life. You could be suffering from Depression and Addiction. Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself about possible symptoms that may point to Depression and Addiction:
Have you lost enjoyment in any activities that you have enjoyed previously, such as sports, hobbies, people, sex, work?
Have your sleep habits changed? Do you have trouble sleeping, or maybe you’re sleeping too much?
Do you feel empty and/or useless? Are you sad?
Have your eating habits changed? Have you lost or gained weight without apparent reason?
Are you angry, irritable or restless?
Have you had trouble focusing on tasks, or completing projects you would normally finish?
Is it getting difficult for you to make decisions?
Are you out of energy, tired all the time?
Do many things in your life out of control or hopeless? Do you feel guilty about things you’ve done?
Have you thought of harming yourself or perhaps committing suicide?
If you can relate to five or more of these possible symptoms, or if you know somebody to fits these symptoms, please seek the help of a professional. There are many people who can help. Naturally most people think of discussing this with their family doctor, but there are counselors, psychologists, psychotherapists, chaplains and pastors, and other healthcare professionals.
Depression can be caused by several factors. In our discussion about different drugs, we talked about parts of the brain and one of the possible causes for depression is the malfunctioning of some of the brain chemicals.
Drugs can cause large change in brain chemistry, leading to depression. It could be a combination of factors, but other possibilities include other chronic illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Just the way a person thinks can send them down the path of depression. If a person has low self esteem or they are by nature negative, or if they have feelings of helplessness, all of that can contribute to depression.
You may have a predisposition to Depression and Addiction.
There is also the possibility of a genetic predisposition to Depression and Addiction. If your dad suffered from depression, or if others in your family were depressed, that increases your chances of experiencing depression. Finally, if a person experiences a series of negative events in their life, that can also be a factor. If a person loses a loved one, or experiences a trauma, or loses his/her job, that can be a contributing cause of Depression and Addiction.
Remember, we are body, mind and spirit. In Depression and Addiction, the body might crave the drugs, the mind becomes altered because of the drugs and the spirit is crushed by the drugs. Depression might have precipitated the drug use, or the depression might have come about because of the drug use. Whatever the case, depression is a serious condition, but there is help out there.
Suicide : The taking of one’s own life is one of the great tragedies of the human experience. When I was growing up I had a friend named “Garett,” who was a year young than me. He was a terrific athlete, an especially gifted football player, and well liked by kids in the school and the people in our small town. He was smart, funny and just a nice guy. A couple of years after high school, I received a letter from my mother, who told me that Garett had committed suicide. According to my mother’s letter, Garett had gotten involved with drugs and saw no way out…another death caused by suicide .
I don’t have all of the details of this story, as in that time, drug addiction and suicide was foreign subjects for people who lived in a small, Midwestern village. My mother wrote that he used marijuana. He took his own life.
I never knew the complete story, as I was gone for many years, but allow me the license to fill in some of the holes with probable pieces of information, which may explain how it was that such a promising young life would be lost so early to suicide.
Start using Pot regularly
If Garett was using marijuana on a regular basis he probably would have learned by experience that, like alcohol, more drugs are required as the user goes down that path.
Recapturing that “high” he experienced after his first encounter with the drug would become more difficult, and he might have smoked pot, while drinking to achieve the same effect.
We were growing up in the 1960’s, and I recall some kids experimenting with LSD or perhaps mescaline. One scenario that I thought over the years when thinking about Garett was the possibility that while under the influence of marijuana or alcohol, his guard was lowered and he tried LSD. He might have had a bad trip, and while in the grips of that bad trip, took his own life as a means to escape.
Rarely does anyone know the whole story of suicide
My parents chose to believe that he had smoked marijuana, became addicted and killed himself because he couldn’t shake the addiction. We never really knew.
What we also do not know is why Garett was using to begin with. It was counter to what he stood for. He was a jock, and coached the football team after he graduated from our high school. Something is missing from his story of suicide .
Was he using for pleasure, or did he use to numb emotional pain? We’ll never know. The drug use was probably a major contributing factor to his suicide for several reasons.
Drug abuse changes your brain chemistry
Drug abuse contributes to the alteration of brain chemistry. Suicide is a very real possibility when the mind is functioning under the influence of the drug, thoughts become irrational and reality is thrown out the window as the user experiences the effects of the drug. Fear, anxiety and a variety of negative thoughts at times can cascade while under the influence.
Why are drug abusers more vulnerable?
Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of suicide to see how addicts could be more vulnerable to this tragedy. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance abuse counselors need “to be aware of depression and suicide risk in their adolescent patients.” Young people are at risk.
University of Pittsburgh doctors Thomas Kelly, Duncan Clark and others observed that from 1991-2000, 87%of the drug abusing adolescents they studied who had attempted suicide were also diagnosed with major depression. Among those who did not try suicide, 40% were diagnosed with depression. suicide and depression are commonly linked.
What was going on in his life, what was happening to him? Garett might have lost something valuable, like a relationship. Sometimes that loss is imaginary, but it is very real to the person. If a close friend committed suicide, that could trigger the action.
Firearms commonly used in by men committing suicide
Some type of firearm is the most likely means a person will use to kill themselves. Approximately 60% of suicides are done this way, and older people are more likely to use a firearm than younger people. Overdosing on medication is common, as is “suicide by cop” that we see on the nightly news, as a person decides to have a shooting confrontation with the police.
If a person does not suffer from mental illness, does not take drugs and has a strong family/friend support system, the chances of suicide are greatly diminished. What hurts so bad that death is the only answer?
Many people seek no help
Sadly, so many people who choose to end their life, who make that rash and permanent decision, never consult a professional in the months and weeks leading up to the act. People will tend to talk to people they are close to, like a family member or a friend.
Perhaps they may be observed getting their affairs in order, or there is a sudden interest in seeing friends and family members. But suicide is largely an impulsive act. Removing objects, such as firearms, dangerous chemicals, medicines, etc. may be helpful if one suspects a suicide attempt is possible.
While this site is devoted to drug abuse and addiction, suicide is a distinct possibility when things go wrong. Things do go wrong and it isn’t just “the other guy.” It’s you, the person you love, or somebody you know. Getting back to an earlier theme we established, people are body, mind and spirit. All three have to be treated.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
For more about Depression and Addiction go to our home page