9 Things You Should Know About Substance Abuse and Depression


images“There is no question that the most common destructive behavior affecting depressed patients, barring suicide, is alcoholic or any substance abuse.” Words from one of my mental health heroes, J. Raymond De Paulo Jr., M.D. at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He does not mince words on the seriousness of alcoholism and drug addiction to the recovery of depression.

In his book, “Understanding Depression,” he writes: “Nothing makes the job of a psychiatrist treating depression and manic depression harder than alcohol and drugs. The most difficult treatment situations that I have ever seen patients and families confront, since I started my training in psychiatry twenty-seven years ago, occur when the patients’ illnesses are complicated by what we call addictive behaviors. While I have seen many successful outcomes, none were easy to achieve.”

Here are some important facts you need to know about the relationship between depression and substance abuse: why addiction impedes recovery from depression and why depression sustains drug dependence.

  1. Depressive illness makes people prone to destructive behaviors.
  2. Destructive behaviors make depression and mood disorders worse.
  3. Depressed people drink and use drugs to self-medicate.
  4. There is a greater risk of abusing alcohol or drugs by people who have moderate depression than those who have depression that is severe.
  5. There is a high relapse rate with drugs and alcohol when it occurs along with depression and mania. Depressed people who drink or abuse drugs are far more likely to suffer a relapse.
  6. Approximately one-third of people with all mental illnesses and approximately one-half of people with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.
  7. More than one-third of all alcohol abusers and more than one-half of all drug abusers are also battling mental illness.
  8. People with manic depression are particularly at risk. One study suggests that as many as 60 percent of people with Bipolar I have substance abuse problems at some point in their life.
  9. The likelihood of developing alcoholism or substance is abuse is far greater in people with bipolar disorder than in those with unipolar depression or the general population.

A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that alcohol abuse may actually cause major depression. The research results showed that alcohol use could trigger genetic markers that increase the risk of depression. In other words, the depressant effect of alcohol could lead to depression itself.

Originally published on “Sanity Break” at Everyday Health.

Image credit: pharmguse.net

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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5 Responses
  1. Therese
    Thank you for the article. My travels through sobriety and now “mental illness,”lead me to believe that there are more people than the statistics show in this piece who suffer from depression who are sober. Thanks again

  2. LM

    I know that my depression is WAY worse for 1-3 days after I have a drink (even one glass of wine!) and I have promised myself AGAIN that I am going to avoid alcohol entirely. I believe this post is confirmation from God that I really, really need to avoid alcohol. It’s poison to my happiness and joy. Thank you for your wonderful blog. I signed up a week ago, and you have helped me so much already!