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Tough Truths About a Dangerous Combination: Addiction and Depression

Addiction and depression are inextricably linked. About 20% of Americans experiencing depression also suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse problems.

Generally speaking, there are three ways addiction and depression are linked:

1. When withdrawing from a drug or only “coming down” from a high, the user can suffer from a temporary bout of depression.

2. Users may attempt to self-medicate their depression by taking illicit drugs or may become addicted to their depression treatment medication.

3. Many drugs cause depression as one of their side effects.

In many cases, the “chicken or the egg” phenomenon happens in rehab – meaning, which came first, the depression or the addiction?

Dangers of Self-Medication

Self-medicating for depression is more dangerous than you may think. There is more than one reason you could be feeling depressed, including some severe physical conditions. Here are several conditions for which depression is a symptom:

  • A deficiency of vitamins, minerals, and other essentials
  • Malnutrition
  • Fatigue; exhaustion
  • Insomnia or other sleep disorder
  • Thyroid disease
  • Coronary artery disease; other heart problems
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

These and other conditions can cause depression. For this reason, it’s imperative to get a full physical with blood work and other needed tests. Many of the above diseases can be treated with combined medical and holistic means. The first step is to discover if you have a depression-causing illness.

Some common holistic depression treatments include:

Vitamins:

A full battery of depression-fighting vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D, E, C, B1, B6, and B12 can all help an individual beat depression. Blood work with additional tests can tell you if you need any of these or other vitamins. Other supplements like fish oil, amino acids, SAM-e, and beta-carotene can also help in the battle against depression.

Herbs:

There are some herbs which fight depression. These include saffron, St. John’s Wort, Rhodiola Rosea, Camu Camu, ashwagandha, and maca.

NOTE: Check with a qualified physician or naturopath before using herbs as some of them should not be used when the individual has specific conditions or allergies. Pregnant women should not take certain herbs, for example.

Diet:

Diet and sleep have a lot to do with depression as well. One of the most common problems in our modern life is fitting in a full meal with the correct amount of vegetables, protein, and high-quality carbohydrates. This and other factors affect an individual’s ability to function as well as how well he sleeps.

Sleep:

Insufficient sleep can not only make you feel exhausted and depressed; it can make you feel neurotic or in extreme cases psychotic. Not drinking coffee, energy drinks, caffeine pills or other stimulants – especially in the evening – is good advice. There are also some supplements and herbs which help sleep, such as tryptophan and calcium/magnesium. Herbal teas (non-caffeinated) can help. Exercise helps many people sleep.

Exercise:

Exercise is a great depression-blaster. People using a computer and sitting all day get easily depressed. Daily exercise, even just taking a walk, goes a long way. It is also essential for your overall health and avoiding cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.

Drugs Which Note Depression as a Side Effect

There are some drugs which cause depression. It’s crucial to look at the side effects of any prescribed drugs you are taking. Additionally, many illegal drugs cause depression. Here is a short list of substances which cause depression:

Alcohol depresses your system and can also cause depression while drinking or in the form of a hangover.

Benzodiazepines, like Valium, Xanax, Dalmane, Halcion, Klonopin, and Librium are usually prescribed to treat anxiety, as muscle relaxants, or to treat insomnia. They are highly addictive and involve the user in withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit taking them.

Barbiturates, like phenobarbital and secobarbital (anti-seizure and anti-anxiety medications).

Opioids, like Vicodin, heroin, codeine, Demerol, Percodan, and OxyContin. Generally speaking, these drugs are prescribed to treat pain. Codeine can also be found in prescription cough suppressant medication, thus the common complaint of feeling sluggish and depressed after taking cold medicine.

Heart medications, like beta blockers, calcium-channel blockers, and statins. These drugs treat a variety of issues with the heart. It’s important to understand how they interact with your body and your mind.

Some birth control pills can also cause depression or mood swings.

Illegal drugs like marijuana, LSD, Ecstasy (aka MDMA or “Molly”), cocaine, heroin, and meth can cause depression. These drugs affect the mind directly, and depression can happen while using the drug, during the crash after the drug wears off, or while the individual is craving his next hit. During these times is when it is very easy to end up with addiction and depression.

There are other drugs which cause depression. Again, this is a very short list of medications which list depression as a side effect. It is important to understand what effect drugs can have on you specifically and be on the watch for symptoms of depression.

Knowing what is causing depression can help you make the changes in your life which will solve this issue. Of course, refraining from the use of harmful drugs is the primary first step. Some drugs, like heart medications, may be necessary for you medically, but understanding their effects is still vital. Self-medicating depression with alcohol or any other substance is a sure way to progress to addiction and depression at the same time.

Why Drug Withdrawal Causes Depression

When abusing drugs, the “goal” is to cause the brain to flood with a chemical that makes the individual feel extreme pleasure. Drugs which create this high also cause a crash when the drug wears off. This crash can make one feel depressed.

When the brain is flooded with pleasure chemicals (neurotransmitters like dopamine or endorphins), the user experiences an artificially-induced euphoria. Therefore, when the flood recedes, the brain is drained of these pleasure chemicals. The brain and body are exhausted and take a break from providing this stimulus. The opposite of this pleasure is pain, which can express itself as depression. Other effects include physical pain and depletion of essential vitamins and nutrients, which can lead to further depression.

An individual struggling with addiction and depression may feel such severe depression that he or she can only think of one way to feel better. That is, take more of the drug and cause the cycle to repeat itself increasing both, addiction and depression.

Recovery & Rehabilitation: A Solution for Addiction and Depression

Another factor that enters into addiction and depression is a lack of proper nutrition. Many addicts do not eat or sleep properly while addicted or withdrawing. The drugs they take also create a deficiency in specific vitamins and minerals like the depression fighting B vitamins as well as the sleep-inducing calcium and magnesium.

A holistic rehab program will include proper nutrition as well as supplementation for these deficiencies. A tailored diet, vitamins, and minerals all assist the addict to become clean in a relatively painless and depression-free manner.

Many rehab centers do not factor in nutrition when treating their clients. They often prescribe drugs to treat depression, when in fact, the depression is caused by withdrawal symptoms and the substances the user is taking. This prescription can be dangerous as it can exacerbate the existing vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by taking drugs. In fact, some of the drugs prescribed to treat depression list “depression” as a possible side effect.

A combined medical and holistic approach to detoxification and rehabilitation has proven the most comprehensive and efficient system for treating depression in the withdrawal and recovery process. If you are experiencing addiction and depression, don’t wait any longer. Seek help through an inpatient treatment facility to return to a healthy and happy life.

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