Depression & Substance Abuse

Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.

A true clinical description is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for an extended period of time.

Teen Depression – Alcohol & Drugs

Symptoms Include:

  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • A dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating
  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
  • Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Low self-esteem is common with depression. So are sudden bursts of anger and lack of pleasure from activities that normally make you happy, including sex.

A Mood Disorder May Be Brought On By:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Childhood events like abuse or neglect
  • Chronic stress
  • Death of a friend or relative
  • Disappointment at home, work, or school
    (in teens, this may be breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, failing a class, or parents divorcing)
  • Drugs such as sedatives and high blood pressure medications
  • Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), cancer, or hepatitis
  • Nutritional deficiencies (such as a lack of folate and omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Overly negative thoughts about one’s self and life, self blame, and ineffective social problem solving skills
  • Prolonged pain or having a major illness
  • Sleeping problems
  • Social isolation (common in the elderly)

Mood Disorders And Alcohol Abuse – Depression

Alcoholism and depression go hand in hand. Each can lead to or reinforce the other. A mood disorder is a common cause of alcoholism as the depressed person seeks a way out of their problems or a relief from insomnia. Unfortunately, alcohol is itself a depressant, so the problem is only compounded. Anxiety can be temporarily relieved by alcohol, but this may lead to repeated intake and addiction.

Alcohol feeds depressive symptoms, increasing both their frequency and severity. Alcohol can briefly produce a pleasant and relaxed state of the mind. However, alcohol problems and mood disorders commonly occur together.

The euphoric feelings produced by the drug are soon replaced by sensations of drowsiness and irritability. Where consumption continues, motor coordination and balance may become impaired. The drinker may feel confused and disorientated and lose all sense of rationality. In the end, the desire to sleep will override everything else with the result that in some cases drinkers may even pass out wherever they are.

Over the last decade new research has shed light on the way alcohol affects the brain, and in the ways in which the brain is affected in depression. It is now known that the symptoms of low mood, anxiety, poor sleep and reduced appetite are also affected by alcohol. This is one explanation of why alcohol can cause depression.

Mood Disorders And Drug Abuse

Alcohol falls into a category of drugs known as sedative hypnotics. Other well known drugs in this class include tranquilizers like Librium, Valium, and Xanax.

A lot of depressed people, especially teenagers, also have problems with alcohol or other drugs. (Alcohol is a drug, too.) Sometimes anxiety comes first and people try drugs as a way to escape it. In the long run, drugs or alcohol just make things worse!) Other times, the alcohol or other drug use comes first.

Other Mood Disorders Can Be Caused By:

  • the drug itself
  • withdrawal from it
  • the problems that alcohol and drugs cause

Alcohol Upsets Chemical Balances

Those suffering from a mood disorder will often turn to alcohol in an attempt to make themselves feel more in control. They are therefore far more likely to develop a dependency on alcohol than non-depressed individuals.

In addition, the affect that heavy drinking has on the central nervous system is likely to be even more detrimental to the wellbeing of depressed people than non-depressed individuals.

This is due to the fact that alcohol may further upset chemical balances in the brain and thus promote the onset of depressive episodes. For this reason, health care practitioners often advise those who are predisposed to depression to abstain from drinking altogether.

The Following Self-Care Steps Can Help:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Follow a healthy, nutritious diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid alcohol, marijuana, and other recreational drugs.
  • Get involved in activities that make you happy, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Try talking to clergy or spiritual advisers who may help give meaning to painful experiences.
  • Consider prayer and meditation as ways to relax or draw on your inner strengths.
  • Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, which you can get from cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, or mackerel.
  • Take folate (vitamin B9) in the form of a multivitamin (400 to 800 micrograms).

If you have moderate to severe depression, the most effective treatment plan will likely be a combination of counseling and medication.

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