Co-occurring Depression and Addiction Treatment

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Depression is able to increase the risk of other chronic illnesses for the patient. This can include problems with abusing substances in an effort to self-treat the issue and try to feel a bit better. It is estimated that up to 1/3 of those who are clinically depressed are going to abuse alcohol or another drug. These substances may make the patient feel a bit better in the moment, but the addiction is just going to make the situation worse and can harm the patient.

Although the user may feel like they are getting some relief from the symptoms of depression when they use the substance, the chemical intoxication is actually going to make the depression more severe. This can mean that the episodes are more severe, they are more intense, and they happen more often. A patient who abuses the substance is also likely to participate in more self-destructive behavior than before.

When the patient is dealing with depression and addiction at the same time, they will need to consider some of the best treatment options that are out there. The road to recovery can seem long and hard to handle on your own. This is why co-occurring depression and substance abuse treatment is often the best course of action for most individuals who suffer from both conditions. With the right treatment center on your side and a better understanding of ways to cope with both conditions, you can finally get on a better track to your own health that will serve you for a lifetime

What are Some of the Symptoms of Depression?

Unlike feeling sadness or grief over something bad that has happened in life, depression can occur more often and usually without something to cause it. The symptoms are going to interfere with all parts of the patient’s life, making it hard for them to concentrate, have normal relationships, and more.

There are a few criteria that need to be met in order to diagnose someone with depression and many people may not realize that they are dealing with it until they are seen by a medical professional. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  1. A mood that is low and depressed
  2. Suddenly losing pleasure in any of the activities that they should do during the day
  3. Having trouble with sleep. This can be either too little or too much sleep
  4. Persistent feelings of guilt, self-hatred and other negative emotions to oneself
  5. Being tired all the time, no matter how much you are able to sleep
  6. Weight gain or loss that is not done on purpose
  7. Low levels of energy, even with caffeine and other methods that are meant to help pick the person up
  8. Problems when it comes to remembering anything or concentrating on a task for very long
  9. Slow movements and responses compared to normal
  10. Intrusive and persistent thoughts about dying or death, almost to the point of an obsession
  11. Suicide attempts or thoughts about committing suicide

As one can imagine, when the patient is going through multiple of these symptoms for a long time, it can lead to troubles with work, family life, school, and having relationships with other people. They are not going to have the motivation to do anything, which can make them feel guilty, and can make it harder to handle some of the social situations that they are in. These symptoms are frightening and a bit frustrating on occasion and knowing how to recognize them and get the treatment that is needed, without using a substance, can be the challenge.

Understanding Substance Abuse and Depression

Research has shown us that there is a variety of factors that will contribute to depression and the reasons why someone has depression can be very unique. Some of the factors that cause the depression though will also play a part in the addiction. This leads the patient to having a co-occurring disorder. When both of these conditions happen in one patient, several factors are going on including:

  1. Past trauma
  2. Family history
  3. Imbalances in the chemistry of the brain

When the patient decides to use the substance and continues to use it, they are going to worsen their symptoms and can make the depression so much worse. The addiction of a substance will often mask some of the signs of depression or can hide other issues that are going on. Any substance can cause this issue, but the harder the drug, the harder it is to stop the issue.

Do I Need Co-Occurring Depression and Addiction Treatment?

Most patients are going to find that they will need to get treatment for depression and addiction when they have both of the disorders occurring at the same time. Failure to get the right treatment is just going to make the situation worse and can just send the patient down a long path. There are many great dual diagnosis treatment centers that the patient is able to choose from and it is important that they get some of the help that they need.

Finding the right treatment to help deal with depression and an addiction can be a challenge and the patient will not be able to handle it on their own most of the time. They will need to get the help of medical professionals to make sure that they are able to fight both issues.

Many of the symptoms that come with depression will include a flat emotional affect, low self-worth, and low motivation. This can make it harder for the patient to seek out the help that they need and it can make any form of withdrawal a bit harder than before. They may need to have medical supervision to help them stay healthy while they go through the detox.

For the medical team to figure out the differences between which effects are from the substance abuse and which ones are from the depression, they will have the patient do a psychiatric assessment. This will help them to create the right program that they need for the patient to provide them with the treatment that they need. While depression can be serious and sometimes feel like it will debilitate the patient, it is treatable when the patient is able to go through therapy, medication, and other treatment options. They will need the help of the treatment center to get them through the situation.

There are different options that the patient will be able to go through in order to treat the co-occurring depression and substance abuse, whether the addiction is to drugs or alcohol. Some of the best treatment options include:


Many patients who are in dual diagnosis treatment facilities are going to need to be on medication, at least for a little while, to ensure that the patient is going to be able to handle some of the different issues that come up with the depression. Some of the most common types of medications that are given during treatment are Zoloft, Celexa, and Prozac.

These drugs are going to be useful during the treatment for the patient because they will help with some of the chemical imbalances that the depression is working through. This will help provide the patient with more motivation to work through the treatment and to learn the best ways to handle the depression that they are feeling. They can then work through therapy and other options to ensure that they will stay healthy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Once the patient has a chance to detox from the substance and is using some medication to help them handle a few of the symptoms of depression, they will need to work through some therapy, both in a group setting and in individual sessions on their own. The point of CBT is to help the patient learn healthier coping methods that can help them handle the depression when they leave, without needing to turn to drugs and alcohol.

CBT is one of the best therapy options for them to use. It is not going to focus as much on the roots of the depression because that is not the important part here. CBT is going to instead focus more on transforming and identifying self-defeating ideas and the bad self-talk that will make the patient feel bad about themselves.

It is common for someone with depression to have a lot of negative thoughts that take over their lives. CBT helps the patient to recognize these negative thoughts and then replace them with positive messages instead. The patient will also work with the therapist in order to find some of the best coping skills to get them ahead in the future, without the substance addiction.

Motivational Interviewing

The patient may also go through a process that is known as motivational interviewing or MI. This is a positive and encouraging method that will help the patient to work through some of their difficulties that led to the depression in the first place. MI is more of a therapeutic strategy that helps those who have depression. Maintaining their motivation as they work through healing can be a challenge.

Trauma Therapies

If the medical professional decides that trauma plays a big part in the depression, they may recommend that the patient go through trauma therapies to help. This will help to reduce some of the depression symptoms because the patient will learn how to resolve the emotional pain from the past. Once they can handle some of that emotional pain, they can reach further goals in rehab and recovery.

Treating Substance Abuse and Depression

When there is an addiction to a substance while the patient is depressed, it is important to find a treatment center that is able to handle both of the disorders for the patient at the same time. This is one of the most effective ways to help the patient to feel better and to prevent a relapse of either condition in the future.

The patient may need to spend some time with an inpatient rehab facility to ensure they can get the best help possible. While they are there, they will get admitted and work with the rehab center to find the best treatment plan that suits the individual and will help them the most. They will likely need to go through a detox from the substance they are addicted too. Since depression can worsen the symptoms, medical professionals will monitor the individual during that time, keeping them safe as they work on healing.

Once the substance is out of the body, the patient can get started with their recovery. This is where they will learn the necessary coping skills that will help them handle the depression without the substance and many will get medications to help them deal with the depression a little better. This is also a good time for the patient to meet others and form a support group that will help them get ahead and stay sober when they leave.

The amount of time that the patient will need to spend in therapy will depend on the issues that are present and how long it takes them to heal. With both depression and the substance abuse, the condition may take some time and the treatment center may ask the patient to stay for several months for the best results.

Even when the patient is done with treatment, they will still need to work against the depression and the addiction for many years to come. This is why most treatment for depression and substance abuse will have an aftercare plan. This includes medications, therapy, support groups and more to make sure the patient is getting the help they need for a life without drugs, alcohol, or depression.