In light of the sad and tragic passing of funny man Robin Williams, we here at Discovery Institute thought now was a good time to take a minute to have a serious discussion on the correlation between depression and substance use.  You might think that a drink or hit might make you feel better, but it won’t.  Many drugs (including alcohol) are depressants which mean that using when you’re depressed is actually going to make the problem worse.  What happens is once you come down from the high, when the effects of the substance wear off, the symptoms and feelings of depression can (and often do) get worse.  A lot of people don’t realize that dependence on any kind of substance can actually lengthen the bout of depression.  When someone is suffering from both depression and substance use, it’s called co-occurring disorders—which means that you are facing two very distinct and dangerous challenges at the same time.

The Correlation between Depression and Substance Abuse

Over 9 million Americans suffer from depression during any six-month period.  To break down those numbers further, almost a third of that 9 million also had some kind of substance use problem on top of it—we’re talking about 3 million people here.  A step beyond that shows that those with substance dependence have 3.7 times the number of depression rates than the rest of the general population.  These are some serious numbers we’re mentioning.

Here are just some of the signs and symptoms that are common of co-occurring disorders:

    • Concentration problems
    • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
    • Dependence on a substance to get through the day
    • Changes in weight or appetite
    • Reckless behavior, anger, and/or physical pain (especially in men)
    • Sleep changes
    • Low levels of energy
    • Loss of interest in daily activities

Most of those people don’t seek treatment.  The sad part is that the great majority of these cases can be helped.  We say this to point out that you are not alone, there are others out there going through the same thing and we’re here to help.  These problems don’t get better on their own; in fact, they usually get worse over time.  Admitting you have a problem and seeking help is the first step and it is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of great courage.

Getting professional help and treatment can make a huge positive impact on you and your family by means of improving your quality of life and managing both illnesses.  An integrated treatment program, like the one we have here at Discovery, focuses on a holist approach to address both components of the problem—the substance addiction and the depression—by creating an environment that fosters personal growth through community support.  If you are ready to take that step towards recovery, we are only a phone call away.  Contact us at Discovery Institute, phone 1-800-714-2175.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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