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Addiction + Depression: How Hopelessness Encourages Substance Abuse


Both addiction and depression are very complicated issues that remain heavily researched mental and physical health subjects today. While there are many mysteries and complex factors that are involved with these troubles, one thing is clear—they are not pleasant experiences to go through.

Most will agree that addiction and depression are not conditions they would like to go through, so bringing attention to the fact that these two issues can co-exist in an individual can paint an entirely different picture. Without proper treatment—typically through dual diagnosis modalities—individuals who struggle with substance abuse and depression (or other mental health conditions) may find themselves in a circle that is hard to escape.

In fact, reports, “Depression is all too often a gateway into drug and alcohol use. It’s easy to see why. Those who experience feelings of depression take alcohol and drugs in order to escape their negative emotions. But those who are clinically depressed are going to stay depressed if they do not seek treatment. And if these individuals are using drugs and alcohol on a regular basis, chances are their usage will soon turn into full-blown addiction as they continue in a vain attempt to self-medicate.”

Recognizing Depression and Its Transition into Addiction

In some cases, substance abuse can create signs of depression in the user; in other scenarios, depression—as noted above—can encourage addictive behaviors. Focusing on the latter, we at Chapters Capistrano believe that it is important for any individual experiencing depression to recognize the signs, and how they can motivate destructive tendencies such as drug and alcohol abuse.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Depression Causes Anxiety, Drugs and Alcohol “Relieve” Anxiety

In many cases, individuals who suffer from depression will also experience heightened stress and anxiety that makes it difficult to function in everyday life. Whether faced with stressors in work, home or social life, individuals who are depressed may self-medicate in order to escape from the mounting pressure of anxiety.

Whether through illicit substances or prescription drugs, individuals who struggle with anxiety may find that substances provide a welcome retreat from the pressure that they feel. While the relief may be comforting, the subsequent consequences of substance abuse and addiction are not.

  • Depression Can Heighten Loneliness

Depression is often characterized by severe feelings of hopelessness, as those who suffer from the condition may not feel that there is any help for them to improve their life. Some may feel that they are misunderstood by those around them, isolated or simply without any support. This lack of support and consistent feeling of loneliness can motivate many to use drugs or alcohol—often resulting in addiction.

  • Depression Creates Sleep Problems

Depression is known to interrupt the sleep patterns of individuals who face the condition, whether one struggles to get to sleep or sleeps too much. Unhealthy sleep patterns can be incredibly disruptive—and may encourage some individuals to seek other ways so they can maintain a “normal” sense of rest.

For example, some may turn to alcohol or other depressants as a way to encourage sleep. Not only are these substances addictive and dangerous, but many prescription drugs that are designed specifically for sleep—such as Ambien—are as well. Individuals who feel they have lost energy and are sleeping too much may also turn to substances as a way to keep up with the pace. For instance, some may abuse stimulants as a way to increase “focus” and “energy” levels while simultaneously struggling with addiction.

The Importance of Treating Both Depression and Addiction

Trying to curb depression with substance abuse is never helpful; these behaviors do not help treat the depression, and the abuse will only create other health issues. For this reason, it is important for those diagnosed with depression to stay focused on treatments that truly help them and to work with trusted physicians to discover solutions. It is also essential for those treating depression to stay aware of addiction risks and to recognize these signs in order to seek help early on.

If you or a loved one has found depression and addiction to co-occur, it is important to seek treatment that restores health on all levels and does not just resolve one of the issues. At Chapters Capistrano, our professional team and comfortable atmosphere offer flexible treatment programs aimed to improve the whole health and wellness of our guests. Specifically, we offer dual diagnosis options for those struggling with both addiction and mental health conditions. Please reach out to us today at 949-371-4198 to learn more about how we can help through our unique approach.