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 simply “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. This is because there is more than one reason you could be feeling depressed – including some extremely harmful physical conditions. Here are several conditions for which depression is a symptom:
- A deficiency of vitamins, minerals, and other essentials
- Fatigue; exhaustion
- Insomnia or other sleep disorder
- Thyroid disease
- Coronary artery disease; other heart problems
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
These and other conditions can cause depression. This means it’s extremely important 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 disease.
Some common holistic depression treatments include:
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.
There are a number of 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. Certain herbs should not be used by pregnant women for example.
Diet and sleep has 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.
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 a number of supplements and herbs which help sleep, such as tryptophan and calcium/magnesium. Herbal teas (non-caffeinated) can help. Exercise helps many people sleep.
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 a number of drugs which cause depression. It’s extremely important 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 drugs 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. These drugs 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 low 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 the drug is being taken, during the crash after the drug wears off, or while the individual is craving his next hit.
There are other drugs which cause depression. Again, this is a very short list of drugs which list depression as a side effect. It is important to understand what effect drugs can have on you specifically and be on watch for symptoms like depression.
Understanding what is causing depression can help you make the changes in your life which will solve the depression. Of course, refraining from 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.
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. This means that, 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 addict 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.
Recovery & Rehabilitation: A Solution for Depression
Another factor that enters into depression and addiction 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 drugs the user was 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 effective system for treating depression in the withdrawal and recovery process.