What Lies Beneath: Depression and Substance Abuse

What Lies Beneath
In the darkest hours of addiction addicts often question what led them to spin out of control – to be completely powerless over drugs or alcohol. Many have felt something deeper attributed to their addictions other than poor choices or bad luck.

In most people’s first 12 step recovery meeting they get a glimpse of who an addict really is; who they really are. They hear their fellows describe their feelings and thought processes around not only drinking or drug abuse but also everyday situations and life in general. Through this process many find they share that others have had some form of depression prior to alcohol or drug abuse.

A recent study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that depression typically precedes alcoholism. The study indicates that people who are depressed as children are more likely to develop addictions when they reach adulthood. It found that those depressed in their teen years are twice as likely to start drinking alcohol than those without depression.

Other studies have shown that alcoholism causes depression – raising the classic “what came first the chicken or the egg?” question. In many cases, the two are present concurrently and when one is worked on, the other improves. Often it is the substance abuse that gets attention first and depressive symptoms improve. That is because most drugs are depressants and it is hard to clinically diagnosis someone with substances present because they skew an accurate portrayal of that person’s well being.

Here are Harmony Foundation’s residential treatment program, our clients find that their depression, anxiety or other co-occurring disorders are more manageable, improve or disappear altogether when they put down substances. By detoxing from substances and allowing the body and mind to heal through long-term recovery, addicts give themselves a fighting chance against what lies beneath their addiction, like depression.