Depression and drug addiction are often two sides of the same coin. There isn’t an absolute correlation between the two, but there is a cyclical relationship where one often causes the other and vice versa. Like a “chicken and egg” situation, it is often hard to tell which issue catalysed the other in a particular individual, but the underlying issues are often one and the same.
The emotional instability that often leads to drug addiction is often the root of depression. In many individuals, the root of the issue is physical, verbal or sexual abuse as a child or young person. Trauma that is not dealt with properly and in a timely fashion can fester and lead people to feel an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, sadness and pain. In some people, the cause is less easy to identify. Not every addict was abused as a child. Some people’s underlying causes are much more subtle, yet they are just as potent and real to those individuals.
Depression is a clinical mental disorder. In many individuals, it is linked to chemical imbalances, which is why drugs are used to neutralize the issues. Many people who have no experience with depression think that it is something the person can “just get over” and move on from, but it is far more severe than the usual melancholia that the average individual endures. Depression is intense, long-lasting and overwhelming. At times it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and it is hopeless. Some people will self-medicate, either with drugs or alcohol, to try to dumb the feelings of pain and hopelessness. Whether they are prescribed the drugs or not, they can often become dependent on them for some relief from their depression.
The need for drugs does not arise out of nowhere in most drug addicts. It is a spiral that spins out of the need for fulfilment in their lives. Again, the underlying causes of each person’s addiction are unique, but many times there are episodes of pain and abuse that stand out in their memory, causing them to find solace in substances. Unfortunately, drug addiction is an empty shell that never fills the void, which causes addicts to become depressed. Further, the chemical effects on the brain alter its chemistry, causing imbalances that lead to mental illness and depression.
When seeking treatment, it becomes less important if the drug addiction caused the depression, or if the depression caused the drug addiction. The goal of treatment is to deal with the underlying issues so that there is no longer a need for substance dependency. Eliminating this need should also target many of the issues related to depression. If the individual still requires medication for their depression issues, it is important that the drugs are administered in such a way that the person doesn’t become dependent on them. Other therapies as well, including cognitive behavioural therapy, should allow the person to find ways of coping with stressers that lead to both feelings of depression and the desire to abuse drugs.