There are many reasons individuals abuse mood-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs. While most people have a choice the first time they drink or take drugs, upon developing an addiction, that choice is taken out of their hands. They will get to the stage where they are compelled to use a particular substance whether they want to or not.

Substance abuse often begins with experimentation, and while some individuals are simply curious about what it feels like to drink or to use certain drugs, others do so as a means to escape their problems. Painful memories from traumatic experiences can often be the catalyst for drug and alcohol abuse. However, in some people, mental health problems such as depression can be at the heart of their addictive behaviour. So, is depression driving your substance abuse?

The Link Between Mental Health Problems and Substance Abuse

There is a definite link between substance abuse and mental health problems, but it can be difficult to tell which one developed first as the two often co-occur. So is depression driving your substance abuse or is your depression a by-product of your addictive behaviour? It can be hard to tell.

The reality is that mental health problems such as depression tend to go hand in hand with substance abuse. There are some who believe that substances such as alcohol and drugs can provide relief for the symptoms of depression. Many often can – but only for a short period of time.

The trouble is that substance abuse can also cause depression. Moreover, what often happens is that the symptoms of depression actually get worse, but now they are coupled with a substance abuse problem too. This is classified as a dual diagnosis.

What Causes Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders such as depression and substance abuse are not caused by one single factor. Not everyone will have the same cause of these conditions, but there are certain risk factors that can contribute to the development of mental health and substance abuse problems. These can include:

  • a family history of mental health problems or addiction
  • early exposure to alcohol or drugs
  • traumatic experiences such as childhood neglect, any form of abuse, being bullied, or the passing of a loved one.

If you have been using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms of depression, you have an elevated risk of developing an addiction to the substance you are abusing.

How Common are Co-Occurring Disorders?

According to the mental health charity MIND, around 30-to-50 percent of those with mental health problems also struggle with substance abuse problems. It has also been estimated that around a half-to-two-thirds of those who seek treatment for substance abuse and addiction will also have some type of mental health problem, although many will not have had any treatment for this.

How to Identify a Dual Diagnosis?

If you have been thinking about whether depression driving your substance abuse or if it is the other way around, it is important that you take some time to consider the substance being abused. There are certain substances that can directly cause problems with mental health and others that aggravate existing mental health problems.

For example, drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines are known to be directly linked to mental health problems such as psychosis and schizophrenia developing. There is also growing evidence to suggest that cannabis, particularly the stronger version known as ‘skunk’, could also be a contributing factor in a growing number of psychosis cases.

Furthermore, alcohol is a known factor in the development of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Alcohol can cause paranoia and low mood as well as mental health problems during withdrawal.

If you already had a mental health problem such as depression before you began using substances like alcohol or drugs, these could be making your problems worse. There are certain drugs – such as stimulants, cannabis, LSD, and ecstasy – that tend to exacerbate existing mental health problems.

As mentioned above, it can be difficult to identify a dual diagnosis because of how the two conditions occur simultaneously. It is important, therefore, that counsellors or therapists ask the right questions to figure out if the depression was caused by the substance abuse or vice versa. Experts in dual diagnosis can usually tell if both conditions are co-occurring or if one condition is purely a symptom of the other.

Getting Help for a Dual Diagnosis

If it is determined that you are indeed affected by both depression and a substance addiction, it is vital that both conditions are treated. Treating one without the other can, and often does, result in a return of both conditions later on.

Some clinics staffed by experts in dual diagnosis are fully equipped to help you overcome both conditions, but there are others that cannot provide the care and support required for this complex condition. Treating a dual diagnosis needs a highly flexible treatment plan that is designed around the needs of the patient and that can be easily altered if necessary.

A team of professionals will work with you to determine the best treatment for both your depression and your substance addiction. With so many ways to treat depression, it is up to your doctor to decide which is best for you. What is more important though is that both conditions are treated at the same time.

What Is Treatment Like?

Treatment for a dual diagnosis will include a detox in the first instance if you have a physical addiction to alcohol or drugs. Breaking the cycle of substance abuse is the first step in the process, but because withdrawal from chemical substances can cause symptoms of depression, it is important that steps are taken to ensure that this is dealt with too.

You might be provided with medication aimed at treating depression to help you get through the detox process with as little discomfort as possible. Nevertheless, this will be a matter for your doctor to decide, and he or she will make the decision whether medication is appropriate or not.

Detox can be more complicated when mental health problems exist, so it is important that the process is completed under the careful supervision of fully trained staff in a facility designed to deal with medical emergencies.

The exact duration of the detox will depend on several factors including the type of substance being abused, your age, and how long you have been abusing the substance. As well as this, the presence of any underlying health problems can also influence how long your detox lasts and how complex it may be.

Once detox has been completed, the issue of treating the underlying causes of your illness begins, which will take place in a rehab facility. It is important to choose a programme that specialises in the treatment of dual diagnosis. This will give you the greater chance of overcoming both conditions, allowing you then to get your life back under control.

If you have been pondering the question is depression driving your substance abuse or is it caused by it, then please get in touch with us here at Oasis Bradford. We will answer any queries you may have and will discuss your situation with you in detail. We can provide helpful advice and information about the next steps you should take. If you wish, we can give you a full assessment so that you have a clearer understanding of what you are dealing with. Call today to see how we can help you.