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Many people believe that once an addict enters addiction recovery, the patient’s life and relationships automatically improve and become positive. But the body of the addict needs to adapt to the new demands first before anything else.

Depression during addiction recovery is very common because most people abuse drugs or alcohol to numb their emotions and boost their mood. Once the brain depends on these substances for dopamine, depression can occur during recovery.

Abstinence would not guarantee instant happiness, and navigating life without the drugs can be difficult. But there’s joy and freedom in sobriety when you get the help you need to overcome depression. Read on to discover how to deal with depression during addiction recovery.

What is Depression?

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. More than 300 million people suffer from this condition. Depression can cause feelings of loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness in the sufferer.

A depressed person may isolate themselves from other people, become less interested in work and other activities, and even have problems maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Many depressed patients turn to drugs or alcohol to uplift their moods. But abusing these substances can cause more harm than good.

Depression can affect your ability to maintain a stable home, function at work, relate with other people, and handle challenges. Depending on the type of substance an addict abuses, they may experience the following depression symptoms during addiction recovery:

  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Reckless behavior
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling useless and sad
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Lethargy and immense fatigue
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Lack of motivation to get out of bed
  • Constant negative thoughts about life
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, and personal goals
  • Depending on drugs or alcohol to cope with depression

Relationship Between Depression and Addiction

Depression and substance abuse tend to go hand in hand. In the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, up to 9.5 million adults in the U.S. reported having a dual diagnosis of substance use disorder and a mental illness like depression.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 20% of Americans who currently suffer from mood disorders such as depression also have a substance use disorder.

Here’s a simple way to explain the relationship between depression and addiction. A patient may develop depression symptoms after getting addicted to a substance, and they may develop substance use disorder due to depression. 

Many substance abusers became addicts due to depression. They started abusing drugs or alcohol to improve their moods and mask their depression symptoms. This leads to addiction and dependence on drugs or alcohol.

When they try to stop using drugs or alcohol to numb their depression, they may find themselves relapsing back to where they started. The situation where an addict also suffers from a mental health problem is called a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.

According to a published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, roughly 50 percent of people with severe mental disorders are also substance abusers.

Research shows that some similar factors contribute to depression and substance abuse. These include imbalances in brain chemistry, family history, and past trauma.

An untreated mental health problem can worsen substance abuse, and also increased abuse of substances can worsen mental health problems.

What Causes Depression During Addiction Recovery?

When an addict decides to give up their addiction, they may feel like they are losing an important part of their life. The addict has grown to become so used to drugs or alcohol. Their addiction has always been there for them when they were upset, stressed, anxious, or feeling hopeless.

As a result, quitting these substances might cause a surge of sadness in the individual, regardless of what support networks they still have. In the process, it can cause their loved ones to feel like their love is not enough.

Addiction to drugs or alcohol can cause damage to the brain’s chemistry, which in turn leads to depression. This is because the person’s mind has become used to a flood of pleasure neurotransmitters flowing through their system.

When you abuse drugs or alcohol, the amount of dopamine released into your brain causes an increase in mood, motivation, and pleasure. Consistent abuse of drugs or alcohol causes your brain to stop producing dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel euphoric and happy.

Without the drugs, you feel depressed because you can’t enjoy the activities that once gave you joy. The longer you abuse drugs, the more it affects your brain’s chemistry.

During treatment, there will be a period of recalibration as your body adjusts to a sober life without drugs or alcohol. The brain begins to produce the natural levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters needed for normal functioning throughout this time.

This adjustment can lead to feelings of depression during treatment and in the weeks after it. This does not mean sobriety is impossible or you are doing something wrong. It’s a natural part of the process.

How to Deal With Depression in Addiction Recovery in New England

Prescription medications may not always be the best treatment for patients with dual-diagnosis. Those who struggle with depression and addiction can benefit from holistic treatments that tackle their disorder and addiction.

At Recovery Connection, our highly-trained team specializes in treating depression during addiction recovery. We use a combination of Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) and Behavioral Counseling Therapy to identify and address the core issues while treating you like a normal human.

MAT normalizes brain chemistry, blocks the euphoric effects of substances, relieves physiological cravings, and improves body functions. Counseling, peer support, and education reduce the chances of relapsing.

The goal is to help you achieve sobriety while simultaneously treating the mental health conditions that can interfere with it.

Insurance covers our treatments, so you don’t have to put your life on hold to begin your recovery. Call us on 877-978-1964 to book your appointment!