Understanding depression when complicated by addiction to drugs and alcohol



The emotional effects of drug and alcohol abuse can impact your journey to recovery. If you believe that you are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol and could also be exhibiting the symptoms of depression, this guide will be a useful tool to understanding the connection between depression and addiction and offer direction to help you on your journey to recovery. First, let utake a look at the signs of substance abuse and the signs of depression. 


Common Signs of Substance Abuse


Substance abuse is defined as overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially illegal drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse also includes the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those which they are meant to be used, or in large amounts. If you are not sure whether you have a substance use disorder, you can ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you use drugs or alcohol for longer or in larger amounts than you anticipated? 
  • Have you tried to cut back unsuccessfully? 
  • Do you spend a lot of time using, obtaining, or recovering from drugs or alcohol? 
  • Do you experience cravings to use or drink? 
  • Does substance use interfere with work, school, or home life? 
  • Do you continue using even though substance use causes problems in relationships? 
  • Do you use drugs or alcohol in situations where it is physically hazardous to do so? 
  • Over time, do you need more of the substance to create the desired effect? 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it is quite likely that you have a substance use disorder. 


Depression and Substance Abuse


It is important to note that roughly one-third of adults who have a substance use disorder also suffer from depression. Among individuals with recurring major depression, roughly 16.5 percent have an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent have a drug use disorder. Because drug use symptoms can imitate the symptoms of depression, it can be difficult to diagnose depression when a person is actively using. Depression can look different depending on the person experiencing the disorder. Though some may exhibit more recognizable signs like fatigue and low mood, others may appear more irritable or angry. Other signs of depression can include: 

  • Lack of interest in activities 
  • Changes in sleep patterns 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Feelings of guilt or despair 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Suicidal thoughts 

If you believe you are exhibiting signs of depression, it is important to contact your primary care provider and let them know your symptoms. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and speak with someone today. 



Emotional effects of drugs like depression and isolation


Emotional Effects of Drugs


While many people understand how addiction hurts your appearance and other physical changes that take place due to prolonged substance abuse, the emotional effects of drug addiction and alcoholism are often less understood. Addiction typically exists hand in hand with negative emotions like depression, anxiety, loneliness, and even anger. When a person who is struggling with addiction or alcoholism feels these negative emotions, they often abuse substances to quell the emotions. Then as withdrawal sets in, the emotions worsen, and they must use more just to feel normal. 


The emotional challenges are not limited to withdrawal; people often experience greater difficulty controlling their emotions at all stages of alcoholism and addiction. The very mechanisms of addiction, cravings, and impulse are linked to changes in the brain that only intensify as the addiction continues. People who are struggling with addiction may face heightened feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness, and anger. 


Prescription Drugs


Additionally, different substances affect the brain and emotions in different ways. Prescription drugs, such as prescription opiates, lead to a different set of emotional changes. Opiates, for example, are prescription drugs that can lead to striking emotional changes. Long-term opiate use was found to alter blood flow between both hemispheres of the brain, with one hemisphere receiving slightly more blood than the other. In patients who have greater blood flow in the right hemisphere of the brain, these blood flow changes caused by opiate abuse are linked to more negative moods. Other prescription drugs like benzos are also associated with emotional changes like mood swings, increased anxiety, and depression. 


Depression and Alcohol Abuse


Alcohol is a depressant that can cause your problems to seem worse than they really are and can make you feel even more depressed than before you had a drink. Alcohol can also worsen some of your pre-existing depression symptoms, including thoughts of suicide, feelings of hopelessness, and/or pessimism. In circumstances where individuals showed symptoms of alcohol-induced depression, the symptoms will typically disappear after the individual has been sober for a few weeks. If you have continued to suffer from the symptoms of depression after becoming sober you should seek appropriate medical advice. 


Depression After Addiction


It is very common for an addicted person to become depressed when they come off of different types of alcohol or substances that they have been abusing. This depression that arrives whenever they try to get sober is one of the factors that drive an addicted person back into substance abuse. Therefore, it is one aspect of addiction that must be overcome for a person to achieve long-term recovery. People may experience both physical and psychological symptoms of depression when they are addicted and/or trying to recover. 


Chemical Effects


On the physical side, drugs and alcohol overwhelm a body’s natural chemistry with powerful stimulants, sedatives or depressants. Some drugs overstimulate a body’s functions. Others depress functions such as heart rate or breathing rate. Even alcohol, which seems initially to have a stimulating effect, depresses respiration when there is too much taken. After this overwhelm has continued for a period, the body begins to lose the ability to produce its own natural chemicals that affect the body pleasurably when an enjoyable experience occurs.  

After drugs have knocked this ability out, when a person comes off the drugs, the natural chemicals don’t come into play and the result can be an inability to feel pleasure. The person coming off drugs feels like life is flat and hopeless. There may be a sense of feeling numb, mentally, emotionally, and physically or for the non-addicted person, feeling depressed. Here’s the good news! Recovery is possible from depression after addiction! And We are here to help you along your journey to recovery! 


Steps Toward Recovery 


If after reading this you believe struggling with depression and addiction to drugs or alcohol or know someone who is, please give us a call at (855) 770-0577 and speak with one of our caring admissions staff. We at Oregon Trail Recovery offer high-quality, affordable, and compassionate support for individuals looking to end their substance use and overcome the struggles of physical and psychological withdrawal.

Our employment of traditional detox services includes both medication and clinical interventions, in order to facilitate as smooth and comfortable of a transition into sobriety as possible. We provide a private home setting, which allows for each client to have the most comfortable experience possible. Furthermore, we offer 24-hour monitoring from trained and professional staff. Lastly, our facility adheres to high standards of clinical care.