Addiction and Depression
Which came first; the depression or the drug addiction?
Addiction and depression 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 can lead to another. In the case of Addiction and Depression, the presence of depression could have come before the addiction, or come as a result of the addiction. Whatever the case, addiction and depression 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 addiction and depression. Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself about possible symptoms that may point to addiction and depression:
Have you lost enjoyment in any activities that you have enjoyed previously, such as hobbies, people, sex, work?
Have your sleep habits changed? Do you have trouble sleeping, or maybe you sleep too much?
Do you feel empty 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?
Do you have difficulty focusing on tasks, or completing tasks?
Is it getting difficult for you to make decisions?
Are you out of energy, tired all the time?
Are things in your life hopeless? Do you feel guilty?
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 be of assistance. 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 various drugs, we talked about neurotransmitters and one of the possible causes for depression is the malfunctioning of these brain chemicals.
Change in brain chemistry can cause Addiction and Depression.
Drugs can cause an alteration 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.
It might be a hormonal imbalance of some kind. Just the way a person thinks can send them down the path of depression. For example, if a person has a negative self-image or they are by nature pessimistic, or if they have feelings of helplessness, all of that can contribute to depression.
What Do You Treat First?
By Ned Wicker
At first glance Ben looked like a pleasant fellow with no particular problems in life, like a neighbor who gives you a friendly wave when he sees you. But then it became obvious that something was out of place. He was in the intensive care unit, shackled to the bed under the watchful eye of a deputy sheriff.
He had a suicidal ideation, which is a fancy way of saying he was at risk for suicide. He was an alcoholic, who acted foolishly under the influence and he did foolish things. He had a long record of mischief and was familiar with local law enforcement. He wasn’t dangerous, violent and had never hurt anybody but himself.
Pills and Alcohol
Like so many alcoholics who wind up in the hospital, Ben’s chart was an interesting read. The attending physician wisely made a referral to behavioral health and a psychiatrist came for a visit to assess Ben’s mental and emotional health. The suicide was certainly a major sign of trouble in his life, but what was the relationship between his suicidal thoughts and his alcoholism?
Alcoholics are often found to suffer from depression and soon it was learned that Ben had been taking antidepressants, prescribed by his personal physician.
However, his alcoholism was left untreated, so he’d mix the pills and the alcohol and just wind up horribly depressed to the point where taking his own life was the only option. The psychiatrist noted that the alcohol was negating the benefit of the pills and that there should be a re-evaluation of his medication.
Ben had been on a binge, had fallen while staggering down a city street after “parking” his car firmly in the trunk of another vehicle. When the police got to him he was extremely uncooperative, resisted arrest and promptly passed out.
This was a routine occurrence for him, as he had been arrested for DUI several times. His license had been revoked, but he was still driving. They took him to the station where he started yelling that he wanted to die, but then he got violently ill and they took him to the hospital. The deputy sheriffs were at the hospital to escort him to county court. He was not discharged, so they would take him to court and bring him back, then discharge him so they could take him back to jail. It was a strange situation. He was sick enough to be in the ICU, but well enough to appear in court. They took him back and forth in shackles. I remember a time when I served at a large urban hospital and visited with a county sheriff’s deputy who was guarding an ICU room.
Motionless for THREE days!
The patient was intubated, non-responsive and lay motionless for three days while shackled to the bed. Like Ben, this patient was an alcoholic who had a record. I asked the deputy why the shackles were necessary and he gave me a surprising answer.
He said that too many times a patient just took off, fooling the deputy into thinking they would cooperate and not be any trouble. He said that once the patient woke up, once they were extubated and felt just a little better, they would certainly try to escape. Not treating the problem?
What comes first, the treatment for depression or the treatment for the alcoholism, especially since the patient has abused the process while taking pills with alcohol? Sadly it appeared as though Ben would get a possible new assessment for his depression and a new prescription, but no treatment for the alcoholism.
He had some jail time coming as a result of his latest escapade, and as a result of his violating probation for previous offenses. It’s convenient. Treatment for alcoholism can be expensive, especially if the patient needs a residential treatment program, which can take six months or even longer.
Ben needs the 12 Steps
If Ben could receive treatment and be in a strong 12 Step program, I am of the belief that the treatment plan would do wonders for his depression, as alcoholism treatment is for the entire person—body, mind and spirit. God does heal people, even if they are not church goers, even if they aren’t a part of the Christian right and vote republican, even if they are not believers at all.
The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book talks about a spiritual solution for the problem of alcoholism (page 44) and does not introduce any religious doctrine, but simply acknowledges the presence of God, as we understood him, into the human equation. This powerful, driving force behind treatment and recovery is unleashed when an alcoholic allows God to enter his/her life and take over. A lasting bond, a relationship is formed and that’s why 12 Step works.
Sadly, the lack of that relationship is why 12 Step fails. People don’t allow it. It’s easier to say it doesn’t work.
The cycle starts again!
Ben is going to jail. Chances are he’ll dry out and people will say how well he’s doing. However, the chances are strong that he’ll go right back to drinking when he gets out. That, of course, depends on whether or not treatment in jail is an option for him.
Treatment is his hope for living a happy and healthy life, regardless of how many new antidepressant prescriptions are offered. In Ben’s case, you treat the alcoholism part of the dual diagnosis and the depression is treated as well.
There is also the possibility of a genetic predisposition to addiction and depression. If your mother was depressed, 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 addiction and depression.
Remember, we are body, mind and spirit. In drug addiction and depression, 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.
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